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Change And Decay?


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I have often wondered why it is, that certain countries such as Holland, where not a great deal of organ-music has been written over the ages, should so consciously choose the path of restoration and historic preservation, whereas Germany, (for example) has just about eradicated the traces of its' own organ-history; save for the few masterpieces which have been restored.

 

As Pierre Lauwers has pointed out, actually finding a genuine romantic period-instrument in Germany is actually quite difficult, and those which do exist, tend to be in other countries such as Latvia, Poland and, of course, here in the UK.

 

The organ world is full of restorers and organ-historians, but equally well endowed with those who are able to build whatever a customer requires; from a copy Cavaille-Coll from Holland to a replica Hill/Gauntlett from the UK.

 

It is natural that organ-builders should respect earlier instruments as works of art and fine pieces of cabinet-making, but at what point does antique restoration become anti-art?

 

Standing back a little from the arguments and counter-arguments, it seems to me, that when organ-consultants arrive with a ball-point pen mightier than any wrecking-ball, it is often a period in which musical creativity is at its strongest....the desire to move forward and leave the past behind.

 

In the UK, we have seen the strength of feelings aroused by the destruction of the old organ at Worcester Cathedral, yet what replaces it is a rather fine instrument tonally. The same was evident at Blackburn almost 40 years ago.

 

So my point of discussion is deceptively simple. Do we look backwards by placing barbed-wire around every old organ and setting up gun turrets, or do we allow organ-consultants and organ-builders the right to change things as they feel fit?

 

MM

 

PS: Could we avoid mentioning Worcester AGAIN? !!!!!!!

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So my point of discussion is deceptively simple. Do we look backwards by placing barbed-wire around every old organ and setting up gun turrets, or do we allow organ-consultants and organ-builders the right to change things as they feel fit?

I see no reason why a happy medium cannot be reached.

 

Certainly in the case of instruments such as Hereford, Salisbury, Truro and Lincoln, there is no reason why for the forseeable future these instruments should be thrown out and replaced with something new. They are all in good working order and to a greater extent still very much in their original Willis guise.

 

However, with an organ such as at Gloucester one can see that in the next 10-20 years a decision to start afresh could well be on the cards. Yes, it currently has all the mod cons such as a divided pedal board and so on, but tonally the organ is now on a slippery slope where the law of diminishing returns applies. In the last 100 or so years it has had successive rebuilds by Willis, Harrison, Downes/HNB and Nicholsons. Yes, there is some historic pipework buried within the instrument, but it bears no relation to the current overall concept, which is decidedly continental in flavour. A clear out and fresh start must be an attractive option when the organ needs refurbishing sometime in the not too distant future.

 

For Worcester and Sheffield, discussed elsewhere, that time has already come.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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It is natural that organ-builders should respect earlier instruments as works of art and fine pieces of cabinet-making, but at what point does antique restoration become anti-art?

(Quote)

 

This is my opinion.

Or do we need to change Steinway pianos into synthetisers?

The place for innovation is in new organs, while keeping the previous ones.

About 90% of the new organs that are built today are copies. Had we still

the ancient ones...

By the way, the reasons there are many ancient organs in the Netherlands, Flanders,

an too a lesser degree Germany (some northern and above all eastern areas) is

simple: these areas where very poor during the 19th century- or indeed the 20th in

eastern Germany-.

 

Why keeping an old organ could be anti-artistic?

I myself am a fan of late-romantic organs. But I won't pretend for a second

say a 1908 H&H to be "better" than a Snetzler; both are of extremely high

artistic value. With art there is no "progress".

And if you find a worn-out Snetzler -or whatever comes first!-, in a state which

do not allow for "artistic playing", this is a case for restoration. Too expensive?

For we maybe, but it will cost our grand-children even more to reconstitute it.

 

"Standing back a little from the arguments and counter-arguments, it seems to me, that when organ-consultants arrive with a ball-point pen mightier than any wrecking-ball, it is often a period in which musical creativity is at its strongest....the desire to move forward and leave the past behind"

(Quote)

 

This was done in Belgium up to say 10 years. Now we agree here while it can sometimes give results, as you say, this more than often lends to:

 

-Complete catastrophes;

-"Dominant males" consultants that become wealthier and wealthier while

the heritage becomes thinner and thinner.

 

Better to let the pens at home and open the ears widely, in order to try to understand

what each dedicate organ is about!

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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DECEPTIVELY SIMPLE IS RIGHT. AS AN EXERCISE IN COAT TRAILING

THIS WILL TAKE SOME BEATING

 

I have often wondered why it is, that certain countries such as Holland, where not a great deal of organ-music has been written over the ages, should so consciously choose the path of restoration and historic preservation, whereas Germany, (for example) has just about eradicated the traces of its' own organ-history; save for the few masterpieces which have been restored.

 

AND THERE WAS I THINKING THAT THE RAF AND THE MIGHTY EIGHTH, NOT TO MENTION THE RED ARMY, HAD HAD SOMETHING TO DO WITH THAT STATE OF AFFAIRS IN GERMANY WHILST WE SURELY HAVE THE LUFTWAFFE TO THANK FOR THE NEED FOR A FEW NEW ORGANS IN ROTTERDAM. AND WHAT ABOUT THE PIPES MELTED DOWN TO PROVIDE MUNITIONS IN WORLD WAR 1 ? I DO NOT HAVE THE KNOWLEDGE TO QUESTION THE BASIC PREMISE OF YOUR STATEMENT THAT THE DUTCH HAVE PRESERVED WHILST THE GERMANS HAVE FUNDAMENTALLY ALTERED BUT I AM FAIRLY CERTAIN THAT THE EXPLANATION FOR THIS STATE OF AFFAIRS EXISTING (IF IT DOES) IS MORE COMPLEX THAN SIMPLY A DIFFERENCE OF APPROACH TO THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE INSTRUMENT. SOME MAY WELL HAVE CHOSEN MODERNISATION: OTHERS UNDOUBTEDLY HAD IT THRUST UPON THEM.

 

As Pierre Lauwers has pointed out, actually finding a genuine romantic period-instrument in Germany is actually quite difficult, and those which do exist, tend to be in other countries such as Latvia, Poland and, of course, here in the UK.

 

The organ world is full of restorers and organ-historians, but equally well endowed with those who are able to build whatever a customer requires; from a copy Cavaille-Coll from Holland to a replica Hill/Gauntlett from the UK.

 

It is natural that organ-builders should respect earlier instruments as works of art and fine pieces of cabinet-making, but at what point does antique restoration become anti-art?

 

THAT IS A GOOD QUESTION.AS A WORKING BASIS FOR AN ANSWER PERHAPS WE COULD TRY SOMETHING LIKE : "WHEN SOMETHING IS PRESERVED SIMPLY BECAUSE IT IS OLD RATHER THAN BECAUSE IT IS GOOD". THERE ARE WONDERFUL OLD ORGANS BUT THERE ARE PLENTY OF EXAMPLES OF BAD OLD ORGANS: THERE ARE SOME FANTASTIC MODERN ORGANS BUT THERE ARE ALSO PLENTY THAT ARE LESS EXCITING AND SOME OUTRIGHT SHOCKERS (NO NAMES, NO PACK DRILL). PRESUMABLY THE PERSON WHO IS "PRO ART "WOULD WISH TO PRESERVE ALL THE GOOD OLD ORGANS AND REPLACE THE BAD OLD ORGANS WITH GOOD MODERN ONES. AND I WOULD HAPPILY SUPPORT THIS PROVIDEDTHERE WAS AN OVERWHELMING CONSENSUS OF OPINION ON WHAT THE TERMS "GOOD" AND "BAD" MEANT. I DO NOT BELIEVE THAT SUCH A CONSENSUS EXISTS AT THE MOMENT AS WITNESS THE CONTROVERSY OVER THE FATE OF A CERTAIN INSTRUMENT FROM A COUNTY WHICH HAS LEANT ITS NAME TO A CELEBRATED SAUCE BY MESSRS LEA & PERRIN : I AM NOT A BETTING MAN BUT I WOULD PUT MONEY ON THERE NOT BEING SUCH A CONSENSUS IN OUR LIFE TIME !!!

 

Standing back a little from the arguments and counter-arguments, it seems to me, that when organ-consultants arrive with a ball-point pen mightier than any wrecking-ball, it is often a period in which musical creativity is at its strongest....the desire to move forward and leave the past behind.

 

THE TROUBLE IS THAT HISTORY IS FULL OF EXAMPLES OF PEOPLE WHO WANTED TO MOVE FORWARD AND LEAVE THE PAST BEHIND. SOME OF THEM - ONE MR A HITLER SPRINGS TO MIND - WERE NONE TOO RESPECTFUL OF THE OPINIONS OF THOSE WHO DISAGREED. MUSIC, THANKFULLY, IS UNLIKELY TO BE CAPABLE OF COMING CLOSE TO REPRODUCING HIS ACHIEVEMENTS. HOWEVER, ON ITS OWN MUCH SMALLER STAGE IT IS JUST AS CAPABLE OF BEING TAKEN OVER BY THOSE WHO WOULD THROW OUT THE BABY WITH THE BATH WATER. IN MY LIFETIME THE DECLINE IN INTEREST IN CONTEMPORARY "SERIOUS" MUSIC IS AT LEAST PARTLY ATTRIBUTABLE TO THE ATTITUDE OF COMPOSERS WHO WERE SO ANXIOUS TO MOVE FORWARD THAT THEY LEFT NOT ONLY THE PAST BEHIND BUT THE PAYING AUDIENCES AS WELL. NOT TOO CLEVER, REALLY.

 

In the UK, we have seen the strength of feelings aroused by the destruction of the old organ at Worcester Cathedral, yet what replaces it is a rather fine instrument tonally.

 

DOES THIS MEAN IT EXISTS AND YOU HAVE ACTUALLY HEARD IT IN SITU OR IS THIS BY WAY OF BEING A PREDICTION, OR EXTRAPOLATION BASED ON OTHER WORK FROM THE SAME BUILDERS ?

The same was evident at Blackburn almost 40 years ago.

 

So my point of discussion is deceptively simple. Do we look backwards by placing barbed-wire around every old organ and setting up gun turrets, or do we allow organ-consultants and organ-builders the right to change things as they feel fit?

 

I THINK WE REFUSE TO SEE THE ISSUE IN THESE TERMS, OR TO ANSWER THE QUESTION PUT THUS. IF YOUR ASSUMPTION IS THAT IT WOULD BE RIDICULOUS TO ASSUME THAT EVERYTHING THAT IS OLD MUST BE GOOD AND WORTH PRESERVING, THEN I WOULD AGREE. I WOULD NOT WISH TO SACRIFICE PIPED WATER FLOWING FROM A TAP IN THE HOUSE FOR THE JOY OF BEING ABLE TO WALK TO THE PARISH PUMP : I HAVE NO DESIRE TO REPLACE MY INTERNAL BATHROOM WITH AN OUTHOUSE AT THE BOTTOM OF THE GARDEN; AND I HAVE NO INTENTION OF RIPPING THE CENTRAL HEATING RADIATOR OUT OF MY BEDROOM, RE-OPENING THE FIRE PLACE AND GETTING UP AT 5.00 EVERY MORNING TO LIGHT IT ! THEREFORE I HAVE NO INTENTION OF DYING IN A DITCH TO DEFEND SOME EXAMPLE OF THE WORK OF BOGBRUSH AND SCRAPER THAT IS TONALLY INADEQUATE, MECHANICALLY UNRELIABLE AND INCAPABLE OF PROVIDING ANY SORT OF PERFORMANCE OF ANY MUSIC EVER WRITTEN FOR THE ORGAN. IT DOES NOT FOLLOW FROM THIS THAT I HAVE TO BE PREPARED TO ADOPT THE POSITION WHEREBY I TAKE OUT MY WALLET, OFFER IT TO THE CONSULTANT/ BUILDER AND SAY , WITH THE BEATIFIC SMILE OF THE TRULY SIMPLE MINDED "PLEASE HELP YOURSELF." AS FAR AS I AM CONCERNED ORGAN CONSULTANTS AND ORGAN BUILDERS WOULD ONLY ENJOY THE RIGHT TO "CHANGE THINGS AS THEY FEEL FIT" IF THEY WERE PICKING UP THE ENTIRE BILL THEMSELVE. I WAS BROUGHT UP TO BELIEVE THAT YOU SHOULD PAY FOR YOUR OWN PLEASURES :NOT CHARGE THEM TO OTHERS. IF, AS IS USUALLY THE CASE, OTHERS ARE PICKING UP THE TAB, THEN THE CONSULTANTS/ BUILDERS ARE GOING TO HAVE TO BE SATISFIED WITH THE RATHER MORE MESSY AND LESS EASILY PREDICTABLE PROCESS OF TRYING TO PERSUADE OTHERS TO WANT, SUPPORT AND BE PREPARED TO PAY FOR THEIR VISION OF THE WAY FORWARD. PERHAPS THIS WILL RESULT IN A FEW MORE SHABBY COMPROMISES BUT IF YOU WANT TO BE ABLE TO REACH THE GREATEST NUMBER OF PEOPLE YOU NEED TO STAND WHERE YOU CAN REACH IN BOTH DIRECTIONS RATHER THAN IN A SPOT FROM WHICH YOU CAN REACH IN ONLY ONE.

 

IN ACCORDANCE WITH YOUR WISHES I HAVE NOT MENTIONED THE W WORD ONCE !

 

BAC

 

 

 

PS: Could we avoid mentioning Worcester AGAIN? !!!!!!!

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Apologies first; I was confusing Gloucester with the "W" place we shouldn't mention. I'm not sure how Bengal fits into the equation, but each to his own.

I never go to the West Country I'm afraid.

 

I think Brian makes excellent observations, but what strikes me about the Victorians and Edwardians is the total lack of respect for the past. They came, they saw...they butchered.

 

Perhaps there is another perspective to all this. Great things only happen infrequently, but when they do, we should preserve them as best we may. The business of preservation is what happens when things have been so destroyed, that the few remaining examples of almost anything, become more significant than they were when first created.

 

Maybe what I am asking, is whether the preservation of 2nd or 3rd class instruments is sufficiently important to prevent the building of new 1st class instruments?

 

More importantly, is preservation governed by musical history or mere antiquity?

 

MM

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2nd or 3rd class instruments

(Quote)

 

Here is the problem: who will decide?

 

As you said, the romantic builders/organists/consultants

rated all baroque organs that way.

 

Let me annoy you with an example.

Round 1868, many a belgian builder worked still in the

baroque tradition. Some years before, the ProF. Fétis had

called all belgian builders "ignorant people", because only

the german Josef Merklin "knew" -romantic style-.

A provincial builder had built in 1868 an organ in Pont-à-Celles,

near Charleroi, that was very close to a 18th century french one.

And this, with absolutely first class materials. In short, an organ

nobody would rate second class today.

The organ was decreted bad to the point the builder had to take

it back.

Twenty years ago in Belgium, Merklins were dismissed...And even

Cavaillé-Colls in France.

So what is third class?

The very fact W....estern England's sauce -at least one particular version-

seems to be evaluated that way today is for me a testimony we may be just

as unwise as the Edwardians.

 

Best wishes,

Pierre

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In the UK, we have seen the strength of feelings aroused by the destruction of the old organ at Worcester Cathedral, yet what replaces it is a rather fine instrument tonally. The same was evident at Blackburn almost 40 years ago.

 

PS: Could we avoid mentioning Worcester AGAIN? !!!!!!!

 

OK - after I write this.... Unless I am mis-reading this, you must have a high degree of clairvoyance! The old organ is still in situ and therefore we do not yet know whether or not the new instrument will be tonally excellent - this, of course, is rather subjective in any case.

 

The problem often lies, dare I say, with the incumbent organist(s), who, naturally enough, favour a particular kind of instrument. Unfortunately, when the instrument in their charge fails to meet their exacting criterior, not all are able to restrain themselves. Faced with glossy artist's impressions and sexy CAD print-ous, their eyes glaze over as they dream of ten-rank Fournitures, six ranks of Chamades and polished stop terraces. Is it any wonder that the wheezing old wreck skulking lugubriously in its Victorian dog-kennel fails to excite their senses?

 

A plea to all who may yet choose to travel down this pitted and hazardous road - new is not always best. All that glistens is not gold (sorry, JRRT) and not all that seems threadbare and ruined is beyond redemption.

 

Listen - truly listen with open ears and eyes! There may yet be a vestige of beauty beneath the veneer of decay.

 

Take heed not to rob us of our rich heritage - you may not like it but then, one day you will be gone. Who is to say that your successors will look at your actions with gratitude?

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Apologies first; I was confusing Gloucester with the "W" place we shouldn't mention. I'm not sure how Bengal fits into the equation, but each to his own.

I never go to the West Country I'm afraid.

 

BENGAL MAY BE THE SAUCE (SORRY SOURCE) OF SOME OF THE SPICES THAT GO INTO THAT HEADY BROWN LIQUID WHICH WHEN ADDED TO TOMATO JUICE AND A JUDICIOUS SERVING OF VODKA.....

 

I think Brian makes excellent observations, but what strikes me about the Victorians and Edwardians is the total lack of respect for the past. They came, they saw...they butchered.

 

I AGREE BUT THAT HAS BEEN THE WAY OF THE WORLD UP UNTIL ALMOST OUR OWN ERA WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, ACROSS ALMOST ALL SPHERES OF HUMAN ACTIVITY. INDEED HAVING ANY KIND OF ACCURATE CONCEPT OF THE PAST IS A RELATIVELY RECENT ACHIEVEMENT. THINK OF ALL THOSE CELEBRATED WORKS OF RELIGIOUS ART WHERE THE PARTICIPANTS ARE ALL DRESSED AFTER THE FASHION OF THE PERIOD IN WHICH THE PAINTING WAS EXECUTED, RATHER THAN IN EVEN AN APPROXIMATION OF THE KIND OF CLOTHES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN COMMON IN 1ST CENTURY PALESTINE . IN MUSIC, AUTHENTIC PERFORMANCE PRACTICE SEEMS TO ME A RELATIVELY RECENT PHENOMENON: I DO NOT THINK IT WOULD HAVE FIGURED LARGELY IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIR HENRY WOOD OR TOMMY BEACHEM, FOR EXAMPLE .

 

IF WE FOCUS ON OUR OWN NATION IT IS NONE TOO SURPRISING THAT THOSE LIVING AT A TIME WHEN WE WERE THE DOMINANT IMPERIAL POWER IN THE WORLD , WHEN TECHNOLOGICAL GROWTH WAS PROCEEDING EXPONENTIALLY, AND WHEN THE THRUST OF EDUCATION FOR BOYS WAS TO PRODUCE SELF-RELIANT GOOD CHAPS, SHOULD HAVE ASSUMED THAT ALL CHANGE IS GOOD. THERE ARE PLENTY AROUND TODAY WHO MAKE THE SAME ASSUMPTIONS. THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM, OR AT LEAST PART OF IT, IS FOR MY MONEY THE RECOGNITION THAT WHILST CHANGE IS INEVITABLE AND CONSTANT IT IS NOT ALWAYS DESIRABLE AND THE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH THOSE CHANGES WHICH SHOULD BE EMBRACED FROM THOSE THAT SHOULD BE RESISTED EVEN UNTO DEATH.

 

Perhaps there is another perspective to all this. Great things only happen infrequently, but when they do, we should preserve them as best we may. The business of preservation is what happens when things have been so destroyed, that the few remaining examples of almost anything, become more significant than they were when first created.

 

Maybe what I am asking, is whether the preservation of 2nd or 3rd class instruments is sufficiently important to prevent the building of new 1st class instruments?

 

TO THAT QUESTION MY ANSWER WOULD BE NO, OF COURSE NOT. I THINK MANY ON THIS SITE WOULD ANSWER IN SIMILAR VEIN. HOWEVER WHEN WE COME TO TRANSLATE THE PHILOSOPHICAL ACCEPTANCE INTO ACTION IN THE REAL WORLD WE RUN UP AGAINST TWO HUGE PROBLEMS. (1) IS THERE ANY SUFFICIENT CONSENSUS ON THE DEFINITION OF WHAT 2ND AND 3RD CLASS

MEAN AND WHERE THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THEM AND FIRST CLASS LIES ? AS PIERRE HAS FREQUENTLY POINTED OUT (THOUGH NOT IN THESE TERMS) THIS BOUNDARY RESEMBLES NOTHING SO MUCH AS THE SHIFTING SANDS OFF OUR COASTS, EVER CHANGING AND REQUIRING THE SERVICES OF A SKILLED PILOT TO BE NAVIGATED SUCCESSFULLY.(2) EVEN IF WE CAN RESOLVE THAT, HOW ARE WE TO BE GUARANTEED THAT THE NEW INSTRUMENT WHEN COMPLETED WILL BE FIRST CLASS, GIVEN THAT FEW OF US CAN FORSEE THE FUTURE WITH ANY VERY GREAT ACCURACY. I CERTAINLY CANNOT. WERE I ABLE TO, I WOULD HAVE RETIRED YEARS AGO AND MADE A COMFORTABLE LIVING OF THE BACKS OF THE BOOKMAKERS . THERE IS NOT MUCH OF AN ARGUMENT FOR SADDLING ANY INSTITUTION, LET ALONE A CASH STRAPPED CHURCH,WITH THE NOT INCONSIDERABLE COSTS INVOLVED IN REPLACING AN EXISTING SECOND RATE INSTRUMENT WITH A NEW SECOND RATE INSTRUMENT, OR MUCH WORSE A NEW THIRD RATE INSTRUMENT!

 

BAC

More importantly, is preservation governed by musical history or mere antiquity?

 

MM

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Guest Roffensis

Apologies first; I was confusing Gloucester with the "W" place we shouldn't mention. I'm not sure how Bengal fits into the equation, but each to his own.

I never go to the West Country I'm afraid.

 

BENGAL MAY BE THE SAUCE (SORRY SOURCE) OF SOME OF THE SPICES THAT GO INTO THAT HEADY BROWN LIQUID WHICH WHEN ADDED TO TOMATO JUICE AND A JUDICIOUS SERVING OF VODKA.....

 

I think Brian makes excellent observations, but what strikes me about the Victorians and Edwardians is the total lack of respect for the past. They came, they saw...they butchered.

 

I AGREE BUT THAT HAS BEEN THE WAY OF THE WORLD UP UNTIL ALMOST OUR OWN ERA WITH FEW EXCEPTIONS, ACROSS ALMOST ALL SPHERES OF HUMAN ACTIVITY. INDEED HAVING ANY KIND OF ACCURATE CONCEPT OF THE PAST IS A RELATIVELY RECENT ACHIEVEMENT. THINK OF ALL THOSE CELEBRATED WORKS OF RELIGIOUS ART WHERE THE PARTICIPANTS ARE ALL DRESSED AFTER THE FASHION OF THE PERIOD IN WHICH THE PAINTING WAS EXECUTED, RATHER THAN IN EVEN AN APPROXIMATION OF THE KIND OF CLOTHES THAT WOULD HAVE BEEN COMMON IN 1ST CENTURY PALESTINE . IN MUSIC, AUTHENTIC PERFORMANCE PRACTICE SEEMS TO ME A RELATIVELY RECENT PHENOMENON: I DO NOT THINK IT WOULD HAVE FIGURED LARGELY IN THE CONSCIOUSNESS OF SIR HENRY WOOD OR TOMMY BEACHEM, FOR EXAMPLE .

 

IF WE FOCUS ON OUR OWN NATION IT IS NONE TOO SURPRISING THAT THOSE LIVING AT A TIME WHEN WE WERE THE DOMINANT IMPERIAL POWER IN THE WORLD , WHEN TECHNOLOGICAL GROWTH WAS PROCEEDING EXPONENTIALLY, AND WHEN THE THRUST OF EDUCATION FOR BOYS WAS TO PRODUCE SELF-RELIANT GOOD CHAPS, SHOULD HAVE ASSUMED THAT ALL CHANGE IS GOOD. THERE ARE PLENTY AROUND TODAY WHO MAKE THE SAME ASSUMPTIONS. THE BEGINNING OF WISDOM, OR AT LEAST PART OF IT, IS FOR MY MONEY THE RECOGNITION THAT WHILST CHANGE IS INEVITABLE AND CONSTANT IT IS NOT ALWAYS DESIRABLE AND THE ABILITY TO DISTINGUISH THOSE CHANGES WHICH SHOULD BE EMBRACED FROM THOSE THAT SHOULD BE RESISTED EVEN UNTO DEATH.

 

Perhaps there is another perspective to all this. Great things only happen infrequently, but when they do, we should preserve them as best we may. The business of preservation is what happens when things have been so destroyed, that the few remaining examples of almost anything, become more significant than they were when first created.

 

Maybe what I am asking, is whether the preservation of 2nd or 3rd class instruments is sufficiently important to prevent the building of new 1st class instruments?

 

TO THAT QUESTION MY ANSWER WOULD BE NO, OF COURSE NOT. I THINK MANY ON THIS SITE WOULD ANSWER IN SIMILAR VEIN. HOWEVER WHEN WE COME TO TRANSLATE THE PHILOSOPHICAL ACCEPTANCE INTO ACTION IN THE REAL WORLD WE RUN UP AGAINST TWO HUGE PROBLEMS. (1) IS THERE ANY SUFFICIENT CONSENSUS ON THE DEFINITION OF WHAT 2ND AND 3RD CLASS

MEAN AND WHERE THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN THEM AND FIRST CLASS LIES ? AS PIERRE HAS FREQUENTLY POINTED OUT (THOUGH NOT IN THESE TERMS) THIS BOUNDARY RESEMBLES NOTHING SO MUCH AS THE SHIFTING SANDS OFF OUR COASTS, EVER CHANGING AND REQUIRING THE SERVICES OF A SKILLED PILOT TO BE NAVIGATED SUCCESSFULLY.(2) EVEN IF WE CAN RESOLVE THAT, HOW ARE WE TO BE GUARANTEED THAT THE NEW INSTRUMENT WHEN COMPLETED WILL BE FIRST CLASS, GIVEN THAT FEW OF US CAN FORSEE THE FUTURE WITH ANY VERY GREAT ACCURACY. I CERTAINLY CANNOT. WERE I ABLE TO, I WOULD HAVE RETIRED YEARS AGO AND MADE A COMFORTABLE LIVING OF THE BACKS OF THE BOOKMAKERS . THERE IS NOT MUCH OF AN ARGUMENT FOR SADDLING ANY INSTITUTION, LET ALONE A CASH STRAPPED CHURCH,WITH THE NOT INCONSIDERABLE COSTS INVOLVED IN REPLACING AN EXISTING SECOND RATE INSTRUMENT WITH A NEW SECOND RATE INSTRUMENT, OR MUCH WORSE A NEW THIRD RATE INSTRUMENT!

 

BAC

More importantly, is preservation governed by musical history or mere antiquity?

 

MM

 

Personally I think to argue that the likes of Truro or Lincoln being with us forever, or indeed any organ is pretty pointless, as it all comes down to fashion and trend. There will certainly be a backlash revolt against such organs in the future, and it is nothing new. We have actually made a very good job so far of butchering paractically all of our major organs, and this is a trend that will continue, until such times we have some preservation orders in place to protect them. This will never happen because Fred Bloggs goes to Cambridge and gets a degree in music and considers himself a walking God, not to say expert on all that has gone before. As much as we love certain organs, ALL will go in the future, and the proof lies in the past, for example, how many Samuel Greens do you know, let alone untouched. Very few. Some organists will come along and decry everything in his particular organ, as it has always been, so enjoy them while you can. perhaps the fact we have about 70 years around here to be apart of them is some consolation, but in my own 46 years, having played since 5, I have seen such vandalism to make me realise nothing is sacred, and we do not know when to stop. Canterbury, Oxford, Gloucester, Wells, oh why bother to list them, have we got all day? Therefore, we have much to learn, but don't! Latest tweakings occur at Blackburn for example, now nice and thick and at loggerheads with the orginal brassy and verticle tonality, aided with electronic stops to the pedal. One day even there, yes the lot WILL go!!! It will be either too thick, too thin, too small, too big, too diffuse, too scattered, not scattered enough, too brassy, not brassy enough, too screamy, not screamy enough, too high up, too low down, too cramped, not cramped enough, not by one builder, only by one builder!, light action, slow action, shallow touch, deep touch, chiffy, not chiffy enough, not round enough, not developed enough, too rich, too opaque, too mellow, too loud, too quiet, not balanced, no attenuation of sound, can't be heard in the nave but can be heard in the cloisters, can be heard in the nave but the people don't like it in the gift shop, not good for Howells, it's too good for Howells but isn't meant to a recital instrument, not good for Bach, it's too good for Bach but hopeless for Mission Praise, not good for the liturgy at the present time in the church and the current trend and the use to which it is put in the light of our saviour Jesus Christ our Lord Amen, in fact any excuse anyone can possibly come up with to convince the people the organ has to go, and yes! poor old girl she's past it, she HAS to go. Jobs for the boys walk this way please. We've all heard it and still do on a daily basis. In other words, no organ is forever good for anything! Sorry, but read the history books! I well recall even Kings and York being discussed in the not so distant past as fit for outing. Kings was considered too English! Therefore, as I said, nothing is sacred! Personal opinion apparently is. :P

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Personally I think to argue that the likes of Truro or Lincoln being with us forever, or indeed any organ is pretty pointless

 

Latest tweeakings occur at Blackburn for example, and one day even there, yes the lot WILL go!!! Sorry, but read the history books!!!

 

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

 

Well, maybe I am not quite so cynical as to think that everything will go.

 

Blackburn is still very much Blackburn, and the small changes wrought are entirely reversible should someone so feel inclined in the future. Blackburn has a big advantage, because very few organs can do so much so well, and I think those who know and are respinsible for the instrument know this all too well.

 

We now have so FEW extant Fr.Willis organs in our cathedrals, I feel sure that the last remaining ones will be respected, just as the Grove organ at Tewskbury is respected.

 

I cannot even imagine that anyone would ever want to change St.Mary-Redcliffe, which is a glorious piece of work from the premier builder of the age. It may be unfashionable, but I've never heard anyone complain about it or want to scrap it.

 

It comes back to antiquity and the value of antiquity, surely?

 

Antiques are not expensive because they are better made necessarily. They are expensive because they are rare or perhaps unique, and make a statement about a particular age.

 

By my reckoning, Truro, Salisbury and Hereford now fall into the priceless antique category, as does Redcliffe. Blackburn is a modern classic, like a rare piece from Cartier, and people don't usually destroy what is outstanding, from whatever age.

 

I am optimistic.

 

MM

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Guest Roffensis

Personally I think to argue that the likes of Truro or Lincoln being with us forever, or indeed any organ is pretty pointless

 

Latest tweeakings occur at Blackburn for example, and one day even there, yes the lot WILL go!!! Sorry, but read the history books!!!

 

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

 

Well, maybe I am not quite so cynical as to think that everything will go.

 

Blackburn is still very much Blackburn, and the small changes wrought are entirely reversible should someone so feel inclined in the future. Blackburn has a big advantage, because very few organs can do so much so well, and I think those who know and are respinsible for the instrument know this all too well.

 

We now have so FEW extant Fr.Willis organs in our cathedrals, I feel sure that the last remaining ones will be respected, just as the Grove organ at Tewskbury is respected.

 

I cannot even imagine that anyone would ever want to change St.Mary-Redcliffe, which is a glorious piece of work from the premier builder of the age. It may be unfashionable, but I've never heard anyone complain about it or want to scrap it.

 

It comes back to antiquity and the value of antiquity, surely?

 

Antiques are not expensive because they are better made necessarily. They are expensive because they are rare or perhaps unique, and make a statement about a particular age.

 

By my reckoning, Truro, Salisbury and Hereford now fall into the priceless antique category, as does Redcliffe. Blackburn is a modern classic, like a rare piece from Cartier, and people don't usually destroy what is outstanding, from whatever age.

 

I am optimistic.

 

MM

 

Well so much having already been dstroyed, it is the fashion aspect that will dicate the survival of organs. Fashion will change, and Blackburn is very much a one off unique sound. That will be its weakness. Someone will hate it. It will get its critics. Bear im mind it had a Cavaille Coll....gone, and I bet you it could have been restored! I am just being realistic, not cynical. I have heard practically all I cite being said in the past, and been constantly shocked!! These days?, well!............ :P

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The problem with Blackburn is not so much what has been done to it recently, although I do abhor the addition of digital stops. No, the reason why the skids are already under this instrument and why it will surely be replaced in the fullness of time is that only 14 years after it was originally built by Walkers in 1969, the organ had serious wind and action problems. Wood of Huddersfield did a patch and mend job until the money had been raised for a proper restoration job.

 

I don't want to cast aspersions, but one of the reasons why the organs at places like Salisbury, Truro and Lincoln are still in such good condition is that they were solidly built with good materials in the first place. The longevity of these instruments is no coincidence.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

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Well so much having already been dstroyed, it is the fashion aspect that will dicate the survival of organs.    Fashion will change, and Blackburn is very much a one off unique sound. That will be its weakness. Someone will hate it. It will get its critics. Bear im mind it had a Cavaille Coll....gone, and I bet you it could have been restored! I am just being realistic, not cynical. I have heard practically all I cite being said in the past, and been constantly shocked!! These days?, well!............ :P

 

 

Well perhaps not cynical but certainly very pessimistic. Obviously nothing lasts forever and in a few billion years the Sun will die and Earth will be incinerated, if an asteroid has not got us first or we have not done for ourselves with global warming or a nuclear holocaust between some of the new nuclear states. In the meantime we might have mastered space travel like they do it in Startrek and decamped elsewhere. I offer the following observations and reasons for cautious optimism.

 

(1) Butchery or, if you like, the conviction that their way was the right way was the spirit of the Victorian and Edwardian age. It resulted in Titanic self confidence that all progress was beneficial and to be embraced. They applied this approach across the board and many churches received a far from sympathetic Victorian makeover. It does not seem to me to be the spirit of our age. There is much more emphasis on conservation and heritage, as evidenced by the widespread support for environmental pressure groups, and the growing political significance of "green" issues. (That is not "green" in the Ulster sense I hasten to add.)

 

(2) I do not doubt that everything that Richard has mentioned has been said at some time, but how much of it has been done (Talk is famously cheap) and how much of that has been done recently ? There will always be exceptions or counter examples to any generalisation but my impression is that there is rather less unsympathetic restoration being done now than say 30 years ago. Hereford, Malvern, the RAH, all the subject of recent work, did not as far as I am aware emerge from the experience in a form unrecognisable to those that previously knew them. In so far as there have been changes, like fixing the wind supply at the RAH, these have attracted overwhelming approval. Conservation cannot mean changing nothing ! Parts wear out, leather perishes, the electronic mechanisms of a past age may be irreparable (the parts being unavailable) or vastly more expensive to repair than to replace with the modern equivalent. Restoration of an organ which has to be used and has to work cannot be approached in exactly the same way as the restoration of some Roman or Greek artifact which will be displayed in a hermetically sealed controlled environment and only touched by the gloved hands of experts.

 

(3) Money is no longer as available as it once was. Many churches benefitted from the munificence of wealthy members of the congegation both whilst alive and posthumously. I would be astounded if this source produced the same income ,adjusted for inflation over the years, as it once did. Likewise many civic organs were donated as an expression of civic pride. The Mulholland organ in the Ulster Hall in Belfast is one such. In so far as there are still captains of industry who actually own, as distinct from administer for a (very handsome)salary the assets of the nation's economy very few would be likely to put as their top priority funding a new civic organ. And why should they when so many existing ones have been so criminally allowed to run to rack and ruin.

 

(4) The culture of deference, still with us at the start of the 60's is now , dead and gone beyond rescussitation. This is not entirely a good thing but it does mean that the belief of a consultant that s/he is God is most unlikely to be shared by all around and that those who disagree with proposals will be far less reticent about voicing their objections than would once have been the case. This is aided by

 

(5) the modern phenomen of the net and the world wide web which makes sites like this possible. Today any one who learns of a proposal to replace the organ in Salisbury with a large synthesizer, two guitars and a drum kit can alert fellow organ enthusiasts all over the globe within a matter of hours. Those so alerted can make use of the same technology to voice their displeasure to the relevant authorities. Even 12 years ago this would simply not have been feasible. (I am aware you can spread news remarkably quickly by signal beacon but only news which the recipients have been warned in advance to expect, eg the Armada has been sighted off the South Coast).

 

Therefore, like MM, I am optimistic but that does not mean that vigilance is not required, nor does it mean that there will not continue to be instances of butchery. I am quite sure there will. However, for my money the more worrying threat to the organ (certainly in Church) stems from those clergy whose preferred form of worship involves "music" much more convincingly (and also far more cheaply) performed on some other instrumental combination, not merely as an adjunct to the more traditional forms, but as a complete replacement for them. Organs are expensive to buy, and cost money to maintain. Whereas if you get rid of the organ the space will make a nice store cupboard for the hoover, and the drum kit which is actually the property of Fred the drummer, who thus has to bear all the capital costs of acquisition and the running expenses such as insurance. The other advantage of a drum kit is that when you find the roof over it is leaking you can fairly quickly move it somewhere else out of harm's way. Only an electronic or a chamber organ share this advantage.

 

Brian Childs

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Well perhaps not cynical but certainly very pessimistic. Obviously nothing lasts forever and in a few billion years the Sun will die and Earth will be incinerated, if an asteroid has not got us first or we have not done for ourselves with global warming or a nuclear holocaust between some of the new nuclear states. In the meantime we might have mastered space travel like they do it in Startrek and  decamped elsewhere. I offer the following observations and reasons for cautious optimism.

 

(1) Butchery or, if you like, the conviction that their way was the right way was the spirit of the Victorian and Edwardian age. It resulted in Titanic self confidence that all progress was beneficial and to be embraced. They applied this approach across the board and many churches received a far from sympathetic Victorian makeover. It does not seem to me to be the spirit of our age. There is much more emphasis on conservation and heritage, as evidenced by the widespread support for environmental pressure groups, and the growing political significance of "green" issues. (That is not "green" in the Ulster sense I hasten to add.)

 

(2) I do not doubt that everything that Richard has mentioned has been said at some time, but how much of it has been done (Talk is famously cheap) and how much of that has been done recently ? There will always be exceptions or counter examples to any generalisation but my impression is that there is rather less unsympathetic restoration being done now than say 30 years ago. Hereford, Malvern, the RAH, all the subject of recent work,  did not as far as I am aware emerge from the experience in a form unrecognisable to those that previously knew them. In so far as there have been changes, like fixing the wind supply at the RAH, these have attracted overwhelming approval. Conservation cannot mean changing nothing ! Parts wear out, leather perishes, the electronic mechanisms of a past age may be irreparable (the parts being unavailable) or vastly more expensive to repair than to replace with the modern equivalent. Restoration of an organ which has to be used and has to work cannot be approached in exactly the same way as the restoration of some Roman or Greek artifact which will be displayed in a hermetically sealed controlled environment and only touched by the gloved hands of experts.

 

(3) Money is no longer as available as it once was. Many churches benefitted from the munificence of wealthy members of the congegation both whilst alive and posthumously. I would be astounded if this source produced the same income ,adjusted for inflation over the years, as it once did. Likewise many civic organs were donated as an expression of civic pride. The Mulholland organ in the Ulster Hall in Belfast is one such. In so far as there are still captains of industry who actually own, as distinct from administer for a (very handsome)salary the assets of the nation's economy very few would be likely to put as their top priority funding a new civic organ. And why should they when so many existing ones have been so criminally allowed to run to rack and ruin.

 

(4) The culture of deference, still with us at the start of the 60's is now , dead and gone beyond rescussitation. This is not entirely a good thing but it does mean that the belief of a consultant that s/he is God is most unlikely to be shared by all around and that those who disagree with proposals will be far less reticent about voicing their objections than would once have been the case. This is aided by

 

(5) the modern phenomen of the net and the world wide web which makes sites like this possible. Today any one who learns of a proposal to replace the organ in Salisbury with a large synthesizer, two guitars and a drum kit can alert fellow organ enthusiasts all over the globe within a matter of hours. Those so alerted can make use of the same technology to voice their displeasure to the relevant authorities. Even 12 years ago this would simply not have been feasible. (I am aware you can spread news remarkably quickly by signal beacon but only news which the recipients have been warned in advance to expect, eg the Armada has been sighted off the South Coast).

 

Therefore, like MM, I am optimistic but that does not mean that vigilance is not required, nor does it mean that there will not continue to be instances of butchery. I am quite sure there will. However, for my money the more worrying threat to the organ (certainly in Church) stems from those clergy whose preferred form of worship involves "music" much more convincingly (and also far more cheaply) performed on some other instrumental combination, not merely as an adjunct to the more traditional forms, but as a complete replacement for them. Organs are expensive to buy, and cost money to maintain. Whereas if you get rid of the organ the space will make a nice store  cupboard for the hoover, and the drum kit which is actually the property of Fred the drummer, who thus has to bear all the capital costs of acquisition and the running expenses such as insurance. The other advantage of a drum kit is that when you find the roof over it is leaking you can fairly quickly move it somewhere else out of harm's way. Only an electronic or a chamber organ share this advantage.

 

Brian Childs

"BUTCHERY?? , I am a qualified butcher, oooops, you mean a butcher of organs :P , my mistake

Peter

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Personally I think to argue that the likes of Truro or Lincoln being with us forever, or indeed any organ is pretty pointless

 

Latest tweeakings occur at Blackburn for example, and one day even there, yes the lot WILL go!!! Sorry, but read the history books!!!

 

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

 

Well, maybe I am not quite so cynical as to think that everything will go.

 

Blackburn is still very much Blackburn, and the small changes wrought are entirely reversible should someone so feel inclined in the future. Blackburn has a big advantage, because very few organs can do so much so well, and I think those who know and are respinsible for the instrument know this all too well.

 

We now have so FEW extant Fr.Willis organs in our cathedrals, I feel sure that the last remaining ones will be respected, just as the Grove organ at Tewskbury is respected.

 

I cannot even imagine that anyone would ever want to change St.Mary-Redcliffe, which is a glorious piece of work from the premier builder of the age. It may be unfashionable, but I've never heard anyone complain about it or want to scrap it.

 

It comes back to antiquity and the value of antiquity, surely?

 

Antiques are not expensive because they are better made necessarily. They are expensive because they are rare or perhaps unique, and make a statement about a particular age.

 

By my reckoning, Truro, Salisbury and Hereford now fall into the priceless antique category, as does Redcliffe. Blackburn is a modern classic, like a rare piece from Cartier, and people don't usually destroy what is outstanding, from whatever age.

 

I am optimistic.

 

MM

 

Whilst I agree with several of the points which both of you have made, I feel that it is worth noting that none of the organs listed are in their original state - not even Truro, which had minor revoicing in the 1960s - of which we know, if you see what I mean.

 

Hereford, Lincoln, Canterbury, Salisbury and St. Mary, Redcliffe have all been altered to varying degrees. Whilst in some cases, these alterations were easily-reversible trifling affairs, others were rather more comprehensive. Even St. Mary, Redcliffe has had the GO and Swell Organ mixture compositions altered twice (I think) in the last twenty or so years. Then, of course, there was the replacement of most of the Swell Organ, necessitated by a fire in or around the 1940s.

 

I strongly suspect that there are further un-documented alterations which have been made to these (and other) instruments. It is only comparatively recently that we in this country have developed an obsession with recording and stringently assessing any proposed work on our church organs. Quite often, even in cathedral records, small alterations are inadequately or incorrectly recorded; trherefore it is possible that we may have a slightly-distorted sound 'picture' of our cathedral organs.

 

It is only with a small number of instruments - for example, Reading Town Hall, Oxford Town Hall and possibly Blenheim Palace that we may have a more accurate record of that which 'Father' Willis intended. Even then - are we certain that no organ builder ever altered the voicing, or the scaling - or even substituted a rank of pipes?

 

After all that, I must agree with Jeremy Jones - I deplore absolutely the addition of digital ranks to any pipe organ, be it Blackburn, Southwell, All Saints', Margaret Street or wherever - I do not see the need to resort to this, which I regard as a form of dishonesty. I like things to be that which they proclaim to be. In furniture, I prefer real wood - I dislike laminates and chipboard with a (photographed!) veneer. I would prefer to do without an item of furniture, until such time as I am able to afford to purchase a quality piece which will last.

 

In the same way, I desire organs to have tonal integrity, as it were, with every sound being produced by pipes. But that is, of course, only my view.

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The problem with Blackburn is not so much what has been done to it recently, although I do abhor the addition of digital stops. No, the reason why the skids are already under this instrument and why it will surely be replaced in the fullness of time is that only 14 years after it was originally built by Walkers in 1969, the organ had serious wind and action problems. Wood of Huddersfield did a patch and mend job until the money had been raised for a proper restoration job.

 

I don't want to cast aspersions, but one of the reasons why the organs at places like Salisbury, Truro and Lincoln are still in such good condition is that they were solidly built with good materials in the first place. The longevity of these instruments is no coincidence.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

 

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

 

 

So far as I am aware, the Blackburn instrument has had entirely new windchests, a new console and a new wind supply in the Wood re-build.

 

Whatever Walker's achieved tonally, the organ was mechanically a bit of a disaster, to say the least.

 

Hopefully, all that has now been addressed and rectified.

 

MM

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Interesting, because their workmanship in at least one other organ of a similar vintage is extremely good. True, the winding was somewhat experimental and resulted in a slightly unstable supply; but then, the rebuilt organ of Christchurch Priory (which utilises new Schwimmers) is also unstable. Insofar as the action is concerned, the workmanship is excellent and still functioning well.

 

I did not realise that Wood & Co. supplied new soundboards to Blackburn - this is particularly strange since I assume that when the organ was rebuilt by Walkers, they had also provided new soundboards. Is it certain that it was not just the (new) Solo division which had a new soundboard, but all departments?

 

I think that a new console was only provided because it was felt that it was not possible to rebuild the previous console with a fourth manual.

 

I do wish that the cathedral authorities had chosen a different type-face for the drawstops, instead of retaining the copperplate script. When I played it, I found that it was difficult to read the engraving at a cursory glance, due to the florid nature of the script chosen.

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Guest Roffensis
"BUTCHERY?? , I am a qualified butcher, oooops, you mean a butcher of organs :P , my mistake

Peter

 

Yes a lot of that is true, but wothout going into the Worcester issue i will say that here is a classic example of an organ that IS adequate, but which personal opinion suddenly pronounces as unfit. The job has done it job so far very well, and is a unique sound, and even given given its "hybrid" status remains overall a Harrison sound, that is not past redemption. It does suit the building, and it works very well musically. But there are the crticisms of mixtures being too loud, too close, it suddenly cannot be heard in the nave, nor can St Pauls, hence the nave section. problems can be addressed. Actions do wear out yes. Rochester was threatened and one thing that saved that was the cases, and the fact that they wanted to retain the pipework, which is also on a pretty high pressure. That ruled out a tracker job on the screen. But organists will sometimes only want a tracker, and will go into a cathedral and rip an organ apart to have one. Others hate trackers. So it constantly is a matter of taste. It would easier if organists could see themselves as custodians, but often they act like little Hilters. Far easier to find a position that you are happy with as far as the organ is concerned. You doubtless get my point. it was only a few years ago that Kings was criticised, too cramped and so on. Too English. Not ideal for students use. It just goes on. A book I have on St Pauls actually refers to the current job and the logic for a screen organ, but to take that a step further, that would likely be a tracker, as was discussed in the 70s. So that would likely affect the Willis, and maybe even see it outed. Even now some dislike St Pauls....... Talk is cheap, but a lot can get past authorities, and mecifully St Pauls, so far, is one case of consevation. So was Chichester, but that may well be seen as too quiet in the future. A nice 4 decker Klais may be just what Chichester suddenly needs. Salisbury was altered a lot in the 30s rebuild, never mind anything being father Willis, and the whole lot could have been revoiced dramatically. St Georges Hall was altered in 1930 as per the fashion, with a very useless Choir organ put on, butchering beyond recognition the original. The Tubas were all suddenly hopelessly bad, yet now people say if only we had the original brassy ones back!! If you read through old organ magazines you often read of criticisms just like now. Things get tweaked, and then become oddities, and then get outed as not original anyway, the poor thing is not any good anymore. Bath is a fine organ still, but the rebuild was not conservative, it did not restore the original Hill sound back which could have beeb done, and Gloucester had its roof removed "recently", when in 1970 it was such a good idea to roof it for tonal reasons. The nave vault was considered a hazard as it blurred too much, yet now it is hailed as the ideal sounding board!!!! Things do not stay the same, and it is a slippery slope, that has slowed down a little but far from stopped. Electronic stops are now accepted when they would have been laughed at in the past, and they open the door for others to follow suit. This is not quality organ building, but is an organist dictating I want that 32 flue, even when not needed. It all comes down to whim, and is not regulated. At parish level it is less of a problem because of shortage of funds. Often one can find unaltered gems and really enjoy them, and even my "own" organ has its faults, but I respect it, and realise it represents a style, and that new organs are not always better, just different. Oxford was a most terrifying example of the damage that can be done, people forget things, like Wells which was also altered. Durham was altered by Harrisons and so was the RAH, now the RAH is considered an oddity, a sound, a very loud sound. It's too far altered for anyone to have known where to start in terms of restoring it tonally, there is no nucleus to work to, because in 1926 it was not thick enough. Now it's too thick or too loud, but is left status quo until someone comes along one day and says its too thick or too loud!! Just like years ago it was too thin and too quiet. It may take years, but all our organs will come under criticism, and it depends on the level it is made at. People in high places have a lot of sway, and it has been proved that the man on the street has no voice. Unless you play the organ regularly at Upminster you have no voice, no opinion. It matters not that you highly regard an organ if the organist hates it. It is going! Next year the organist might move to Lowminster leaving behind HIS organ for us all to savour!! So not a pessimist, but a realist. Time does change everything, and sadly the things that remain to us unchanged, are human and include ego, greed, selfishness and lack of concern for others opinions. These qualities will always be around us, and those qualities are the ones that cause damage.

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I agree wholeheartedly with what Richard has said. Its so sad that so much destruction goes on. Of course there may be cases where an old organ is really bad, or really beyond repair and then there's the opportunity for a fresh start, but most of what we see is just whim.

 

The Klais rebuild in Bath Abbey is very fine, but it doesn't accompany services as well as the previous HNB incarnation. This discussion thread has already highlighted again the polarised views of the distinctive tonality of the Gloucester instrument. Other recent discussion trails have noted the difficulty of accompanying at Christchurch Oxford. There have been several contributions bringing into question the success of the rebuild at Christchurch Priory. As fo St. Mary's, Warwick, the instrument is unspeakably foul. This just reinforces a point which I made recently that throwing out an existing instrument and commissioning a replacement is a leap of faith and carries considerable risk.

 

The organ in Bridlington Priory is often quoted as a nationally important example of Charles Anneessens' work, yet has just been rebuilt with around 17 or 18 new stops. Why?

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[Hereford, Lincoln, Canterbury, Salisbury and St. Mary, Redcliffe have all been altered to varying degrees. Whilst in some cases, these alterations were easily-reversible trifling affairs, others were rather more comprehensive. Even St. Mary, Redcliffe has had the GO and Swell Organ mixture compositions altered twice (I think) in the last twenty or so years. Then, of course, there was the replacement of most of the Swell Organ, necessitated by a fire in or around the 1940s.

 

I strongly suspect that there are further un-documented alterations which have been made to these (and other) instruments. It is only comparatively recently that we in this country have developed an obsession with recording and stringently assessing any proposed work on our church organs. Quite often, even in cathedral records, small alterations are inadequately or incorrectly recorded; trherefore it is possible that we may have a slightly-distorted sound 'picture' of our cathedral organs.

 

It is only with a small number of instruments - for example, Reading Town Hall, Oxford Town Hall and possibly Blenheim Palace that we may have a more accurate record of that which 'Father' Willis intended. Even then - are we certain that no organ builder ever altered the voicing, or the scaling - or even substituted a rank of pipes?

 

I accept all of this but I would be astounded if it were otherwise. Few of us when /if we reach the age of these instruments will be in the same condition we left the womb or even that we were in when we started our first job ! False teeth, spectacles, hair pieces for those particularly worried by hair loss, and for some artificial limbs, pace-makers or titanium plates in the skull. Despite all this intervention or supplementation we consider ourselves to be the same person as we always have been. I think the organs mentioned are regarded as essentially the same and recognisable as the same person despite changes wrought by time and changes of fashion (eg as regards hair length for those still fortunate enough to possess it). Reading, Oxford and Blenheim would seem to have lasted better than some others or perhaps adopted a different approach to fashion, but have still not escaped completely the ravages of time and the consequent work to fix them.

 

Brian Childs

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Hi Richard,

 

I agree with much of what you say but is n't it the case that one person's reality is that the glass is half full in which they rejoice while another's is that the glass is half empty which causes them to be depressed. In both cases the physical quantity of liquid present is the same !

 

 

But organists will sometimes only want a tracker, and will go into a cathedral and rip an organ apart to have one. Others hate trackers. So it constantly is a matter of taste. It would easier if organists could see themselves as custodians, but often they act like little Hilters.

 

Of course fashion is an important influence, it may even have the pre-eminent position which you accord it, but I think we need to keep a sense of proportion. If we look at the matter of our clothes as an example our personal taste is obviously a crucial influence in what we choose to buy, but few of us are in the position of being able to throw out our entire  wardrobe and start again with a complete new one.[if anybody reading this is that wealthy please contact me by e-mail. I have a truly heart rending letter to send you which will move you to tears before you rush for your cheque book] But we buy new clothes with far greater frequency than a major church or concert hall gets a new organ. If I had just been appointed to somewhere like Hereford where the organ has just been through a major programme of work I would not fancy my chances of prevailing upon the Dean and Chapter to decide to throw out the instrument and install a new one in accordance with my personal taste. I would expect to be told that the state and design of this organ were a matter of public knowledge and if were so unhappy about working with it, why had I bothered to apply for the job in the first place, and did I not consider I might be happier working elsewhere ? Obviously where an organ is vulnerable to fashion is when major work becomes essential, either because of some incident like damage from a leaking roof, or because routine care and maintenance have been insufficiently attended to.While there can be no guarantee against the former for any instrument, the latter OUGHT not to be a problem with a major instrument, such as a cathedral organ. However the diversion of funds to more pressing purposes, or those fashionable with the authorities in the Cathedral, will sometimes mean that what ought to be the case is not in fact so.

Far easier to find a position that you are happy with as far as the organ is concerned. You doubtless get my point. it was only a few years ago that Kings was criticised, too cramped and so on. Too English. Not ideal for students use. It just goes on.

 

Of course Richard but Kings is still there as I write this. People will always moan. We British are famously preoccupied with the weather which we have no chance of influencing as individuals ( I am not going in to climate change here !) Likewise people will moan about the organs in their charge but it does not necessarily mean that we should assume they intend to actually do anything ![COLOR=orange]

 

 

. It all comes down to whim, and is not regulated. At parish level it is less of a problem because of shortage of funds.

 

This is true of tinkering but paradoxically it may leave parish organs  more exposed to the dictates of fashion  when the ravages of time can finally be ignored no longer. It's a bit like putting off going to the dentist: when you eventually do go because it has now started actually to hurt more drastic intervention may be required

 

Often one can find unaltered gems and really enjoy them, and even my "own" organ has its faults, but I respect it, and realise it represents a style, and that new organs are not always better, just different. Oxford was a most terrifying example of the damage that can be done, people forget things, like Wells which was also altered. Durham was altered by Harrisons and so was the RAH, now the RAH is considered an oddity, a sound, a very loud sound.

 

Surely the RAH can also be a very SOFT sound, barely audible , if you draw stops individually rather than in handfuls ! I have not heard it live since it was rebuilt but I would be astounded if careful selection of registers from the fairly large palette available did not permit some level of dynamics in between barely audible movement of air and being blown out of the building. Surely some of the responsibility for the loud sound might reside with the driver rather than the car !

 

 

It's too far altered for anyone to have known where to start in terms of restoring it  People in high places have a lot of sway, and it has been proved that the man on the street has no voice. Unless you play the organ regularly at Upminster you have no voice, no opinion. It matters not that you highly regard an organ if the organist hates it. It is going!

 

I am sure this is not always the case. People in high places clearly do have a lot of sway but we are not yet, I hope, in Blair's Thousand Year Reich. Sometimes they have to listen, and sometimes they do change course as a result of listening.

 

Next year the organist might move to Lowminster leaving behind HIS organ for us all to savour!! So not a pessimist, but a realist. Time does change everything, and sadly the things that remain to us unchanged, are human and include ego, greed, selfishness and lack of concern for others opinions. These qualities will always be around us, and those qualities are the ones that cause damage.

 

Of course we all fall short of the glory of God: of course these qualities abound even in places where  they should not, eg in people following a religious vocation: but surely all that means is that we have to try harder whilst being prepared for the fact that our efforts may not result in success? When I was in primary school one of the little stories we used to get told was of a man walking along a beach on which are stranded millions of starfish, picking them up and throwing them back into the sea. An observer approaches him and asks why he bothers: he has no chance of making any difference. His reply, as he picks up another to return to the sea, is "It makes a difference to this one"!

 

All the best, and look after that Hill

 

Brian Childs

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I would certainly agree with Richard and nfortin - if only organists could see themselves primarily as custodians, we may well have not already lost some of our precious organ heritage.

 

I agree about the Klais at Bath Abbey - I, too, played the organ in its previous incarnation and thought that it was wonderful. The present rebuild has, of course, lost a department - the old organ had Positive, Choir, GO, Swell and Solo - now there is no Choir Organ. Personally, I think that this is a retrograde step.

 

In the mean-time: an organ with a hair-piece. Now there is a novel idea.... :P

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Interesting, because their workmanship in at least one other organ of a similar vintage is extremely good. True, the winding was somewhat experimental and resulted in a slightly unstable supply; but then, the rebuilt organ of Christchurch Priory (which utilises new Schwimmers) is also unstable. Insofar as the action is concerned, the workmanship is excellent and still functioning well.

 

I did not realise that Wood & Co. supplied new soundboards to Blackburn - this is particularly strange since I assume that when the organ was rebuilt by Walkers, they had also provided new soundboards. Is it certain that it was not just the (new) Solo division which had a new soundboard, but all departments?

 

 

 

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

 

Off the top of my head, I can't quote the exact words, but David Wood wrote on his web-site that the chests at Blackburn were in an extremely poor state and needed to be renewed. I have no further details I'm afraid, but if I find my booklet about the re-build, I'll confirm the facts of the matter. However, I think it is quite certain that new chests were made and fitted.

 

I've played another Walker organ of a similar vintage, where bits kept falling off the console, half the combination action didn't work properly and the wind was definitely in the "wicken" category......North, South, East & West....all over the place.

 

MM

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I've played another Walker organ of a similar vintage, where bits kept falling off the console, half the combination action didn't work properly and the wind was definitely in the "wicken" category......North, South, East & West....all over the place.

 

MM

 

May I ask which instrument this is, please?

 

Well, I am just glad that our Walker is not a 'Friday afternoon' organ! :P

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