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Organs For Sale On "a Well Known Auction Site."


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Yet another instrument for sale at a knock down (literally) price:

 

"That auction site" Item number: 170210942648

 

I mention the above just in case someone may be interested. However, it has also set me pondering one or two questions.

 

There seems to be a trend developing, of more and more what appear to be perfectly serviceable or repairable church organs appearing on said auction site. Not being an expert on the etiquette and customs of this board, and in deference to our hosts, I am wondering whether they have any views, legal or otherwise, on board members posting such information.

 

I know others have done so before, quite recently, and indeed letting other organists know, just on the slight chance that someone may get a bargain, and another instrument might be find a loving home, seems eminently sensible. But I can't help wondering just how our hosts view the situation, and I would hate to commit a breach of good manners to them. Similarly, are there any distinctions, again legal or otherwise, between posting a link, (http:// etc.), or just 'information' as I have done above.

 

I hope this doesn't seem a silly question; I just felt it would be good to have an 'informed' opinion.

 

On a wider front, has there always been a 'trade' in organs, and 'that site' has become involved simply because it's there now, or is it a sign of the times, that more and more organs are being sold off, apparently cheaply.

 

Personally, I find it disturbing, even sad, that we have reached a stage where seemingly quite reasonable instruments are being offered for just nominal sums, such as 99 pence. I do not suggest that, if available, they shouldn't be offered; I can see that a purchaser might get a real bargain, and if it means that it puts a pipe organ within the reach of a church which has never had one, then of course that is a good thing. It's just sad that these instruments have become so ridiculously under valued, in comparison to the skill and craftsmanship required to build them.

 

I suppose the root of the problem is that this particular craftsmanship is overwhelmingly associated with the church, and that decline in support for that institution is the real cause. Like so much else nowadays, however lofty and desirable the ideal, in the end it all comes down to money.

 

What do others think?

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Guest Cynic
Yet another instrument for sale at a knock down (literally) price:

 

"That auction site" Item number: 170210942648

 

I mention the above just in case someone may be interested. However, it has also set me pondering one or two questions.

 

There seems to be a trend developing, of more and more what appear to be perfectly serviceable or repairable church organs appearing on said auction site. Not being an expert on the etiquette and customs of this board, and in deference to our hosts, I am wondering whether they have any views, legal or otherwise, on board members posting such information.

 

I know others have done so before, quite recently, and indeed letting other organists know, just on the slight chance that someone may get a bargain, and another instrument might be find a loving home, seems eminently sensible. But I can't help wondering just how our hosts view the situation, and I would hate to commit a breach of good manners to them. Similarly, are there any distinctions, again legal or otherwise, between posting a link, (http:// etc.), or just 'information' as I have done above.

 

I hope this doesn't seem a silly question; I just felt it would be good to have an 'informed' opinion.

 

On a wider front, has there always been a 'trade' in organs, and 'that site' has become involved simply because it's there now, or is it a sign of the times, that more and more organs are being sold off, apparently cheaply.

 

Personally, I find it disturbing, even sad, that we have reached a stage where seemingly quite reasonable instruments are being offered for just nominal sums, such as 99 pence. I do not suggest that, if available, they shouldn't be offered; I can see that a purchaser might get a real bargain, and if it means that it puts a pipe organ within the reach of a church which has never had one, then of course that is a good thing. It's just sad that these instruments have become so ridiculously under valued, in comparison to the skill and craftsmanship required to build them.

 

I suppose the root of the problem is that this particular craftsmanship is overwhelmingly associated with the church, and that decline in support for that institution is the real cause. Like so much else nowadays, however lofty and desirable the ideal, in the end it all comes down to money.

 

What do others think?

 

I can't speak for Manders, but as a member of this forum, I am certainly glad to have my attention drawn to such sales. The price of 99p for an organ may seem derisory, but this is several steps better than an organ simply being sold to scrap merchants or, worse still, simply wrecked as a building comes down around it. Remember, any figure that people give for an instrument has to be more than matched by their costs in getting it out. I like Luton vans, but they start at about £75 per day, plus fuel of course. Even using volunteer labour involves expenses.

 

I have rescued a few organs in my time, and it is safe to say that once the price goes up into the hundreds, those purchasing an instrument are probably not intending to sell it for scrap. I was very interested in the two manual in Birmingham that was up on e-bay a week ago. I decided that although I have no spare room here, it would be worth struggling to save this one somehow. When the price climbed past £500 I was delighted - someone clearly wanted it.

 

Like you, I see this as a combination of churches shrinking and the lack of players who know what to do with a proper pipe organ, but there is also an element of stupidity too. I feel compelled to retell a tale here:

 

Two Methodist Churches in Ludlow wanted to get rid of their pipe organs about four years ago. A friend could give rooim to one of them, so I was taken to see both. The one at the main Mehtodist Church in Broad Street was a gem, by Alexander Young (the successor to Samuel Renn) in a smart pitch-pine case, short compass Sw. etc. etc. The other was a bog-standard rattle trap with a respectable case and a fair-to-useful spec. I couldn't in all conscience agree to take out the Alex Young job and several others said the same. It was sold on e-bay, to some organ-builders from France.

 

Anyway, they turned up (of all times) on a Sunday morning to start taking it down. One sat at the keys and started to play. The congregation gathered round admiringly, and comments such as 'we never knew it sounded like that' and 'why are we selling it?' were expressed.

 

Too late. Next time that have a Remembrance Service or a big funeral where a church band would be inappropriate, the singing will be virtually unsupported and maybe the truth will dawn.

 

Of course in this case it wasn't just the lack of an able organist that explained the disposal - the new leadership wanted to Modernise the whole place. The exterior is a listed building, but inside they can do what they like. The pews have gone, they also wanted rid of the brass rails and (initially) the gallery. I'd have loved to have seen what happened when that came down - my guess is that it was holding the side walls apart! The urge to look modern seems to over-ride everything else these days - notably good taste.

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..................It was sold on e-bay, to some organ-builders from France.

 

Interestingly those that find there way to France are often much loved and cared for in their new homes. 'Have come across a couple in Brittany that went in where before there had been nothing, a harmonium or an electronic.

 

AJJ

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in deference to our hosts, I am wondering whether they have any views, legal or otherwise, on board members posting such information.

I posted the link about Pershore's eBay advert because it tied in with a discussion that was already on record, but otherwise I guess I prefer not to do so unless we are given a clear indication by Manders that this is acceptable, for the sake of saving pipe organs in this country as a whole.

 

Manders are very generous to provide this forum, which is used to discuss much that is not directly concerned with them, and a certain amount that is actually in competition with them. While I think this is healthy as it currently goes on, I would not like to take advantage of their generosity in such a way as to cause them to restrict it - we would all lose by that.

 

As for eBay, anyone who is seriously in a position to help save organs can set up a saved search which would then cause eBay to email them each time a new instrument was placed there for sale.

 

Paul

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Guest Barry Williams

"....but inside they can do what they like."

 

No. Listed Buildings are listed in total. The items that are mentioned in the Listing are not specifically the features, but matters of identification. The whole of the building and its contents are Listed.

 

Those buildings that are used for worship are, by and large, subject to the Ecclesiastical Exemption, whereby denominations exercise control of the interior themselves, which is supposed to approximate in standard of care to Listed Building consent. In the Churches of England and Wales this is done by the Consistory Courts, advised by the Diocesan Advisory Committees. In other denominations there is always a committee for the purpose, so it must have been authorised by some committee or body. One denomination took no care in these matters and lost, for a time at least, its exemption.

 

It is usually possible to improve and modernise the interior of churches without spoiling the architecture. Perhaps the interior of this one was not as good as the exterior and thus it was not important that it was altered. Perhaps the historic organ was not mentioned in the Listing or the records, thus no-one on the committee knew about it. Perhaps the organs adviser was not consulted. Perhaps the organ, whilst of historical importance, was not musically useful to anyone and thus no home could be found for it

 

Barry Williams

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"....but inside they can do what they like."

 

 

It is usually possible to improve and modernise the interior of churches without spoiling the architecture. Perhaps the interior of this one was not as good as the exterior and thus it was not important that it was altered. Perhaps the historic organ was not mentioned in the Listing or the records, thus no-one on the committee knew about it. Perhaps the organs adviser was not consulted. Perhaps the organ, whilst of historical importance, was not musically useful to anyone and thus no home could be found for it

 

Barry Williams

 

Hi

 

The situation in churches where congregational government (rather than a hierarchy) is practiced (e.g. Baptist, Congregational and many of the smaller denominations & independants) is that there is no organ advisor - and unless listed building consent is required - no-one outside the church with any authority to intervene - let alone there being any apointed advisors! This has led to the decimation of organs in Baptist churches in recent years. Of the eight or so Baptist churches that I have links with in this area, we are the only one using a pipe organ regularly. A couple of others at least still maintain their organs and use them occaisionally. The other churches that have rebuilt do not have pipe organs or even decent electronics - one of them had a 2m Harrison previously, another a Conacher. One local church has a 3 manual basically Binns organ that, as far as I know, hasn't even been switched on since their organist died about 3 years ago (and that may have to be disposed of, as the church are facing an estimate of something like £400,000 to put the building in order, so redevelopment on complete closure is more than likely).

 

All in all, a very sad state of affairs. At the very least, organs - often the result of sacrificial giving by previous church members - should be retained for possible future restoration rather than just being disposed of. Aren't charity trustees supposed to protect the charity's assets?

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Barry Williams

".....no-one outside the church with any authority to intervene.."

 

For a Listed church building to have the Ecclesiastical Exemption, the final decision must be taken by a body outside the church. Perhaps some of the churches Tony refers to are not Listed buildings.

 

However, if the building is not Listed they can indeed do what they like - and usually do! It is open to anyone to suggest that a building be Listed and to invite the authorities to note the presence of an historically significant pipe organ.

 

The Ecclesiatical Exemption has been responsible for some of the most appalling vandalism to fine churches, often in the name of 'liturgical progress'. Things are rather better now in the Church of England, as since 1992 the Ecclesiastical Courts have had the powers of injunctions and restorations. Previously, these were in the hands of the secular courts and used only rarely.

 

 

Barry Williams

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".....no-one outside the church with any authority to intervene.."

 

For a Listed church building to have the Ecclesiastical Exemption, the final decision must be taken by a body outside the church. Perhaps some of the churches Tony refers to are not Listed buildings.

 

However, if the building is not Listed they can indeed do what they like - and usually do! It is open to anyone to suggest that a building be Listed and to invite the authorities to note the presence of an historically significant pipe organ.

 

The Ecclesiatical Exemption has been responsible for some of the most appalling vandalism to fine churches, often in the name of 'liturgical progress'. Things are rather better now in the Church of England, as since 1992 the Ecclesiastical Courts have had the powers of injunctions and restorations. Previously, these were in the hands of the secular courts and used only rarely.

Barry Williams

 

Hi

 

Not many Baptist churches - except the very old buildings - are listed. My first church was a listed building - with significant errors in the listing description - including incorrect numbers of windows and incorrect roofing material (the roof had been concrete tiles for over 40 years - the listing said slate, which was probably the original but was not what was present at the date of listing!). The next church (mid-1800's) was not listed, and neither is my present one (although the local council are in process of recording it as "of local architectural interest" but quite what means leaglly I'm not - does anyone here know?)

 

Being congregationally governed, this means that the church meeting can, in effect, do what it likes except where that would transgress the trust deeds, etc. There is also a widespread belief that listing only refers to the exterior, and any interior fittings that are specifically noted - which can still leave plenty of scope for vandalism.

 

I find myself in two minds about some of this - for example, pews are, in general, uncomfortable to sit on - not encouraging new people to come to church (or even sometimes existing members) - and also lack the flexibility that is often needed to keep church buildings vialble for purposes other than Sunday worship. Then there's issues of disabled access, etc. - but I'm digressing from the real point of this forum, so I'll shut up!

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Guest Barry Williams

These things are indeed relevant to organs. There has been a ill-advised campaign orchestrated, I think, by some members of BIOS, which, almost inevitably had to fail, attempting to get all organs 'listed'. The technique and methodology of the campaiging was closely allied to that of certain anti-abortion pressure groups. Not surprisingly, it received little credence.

 

A case can be made out for listing organs, but it needs a subtle and selective approach.

 

The difficulty often arises not some much over pipe versus electronic, but when there is an instrument that is historically important yet is no longer musically useful in the church. The parish, understandably, sees no reason to maintain an instrument that no longer fulfills its needs. The organ buffs then try and persuade the parish that its needs are not in fact needs, but only 'perceived needs'. The matter sometimes ends up in the Consistory Court and the parish, approaching the matter through the law rather than the love of an historical organ, inevitably wins. The Victorian Society ended up paying thousands of pounds in costs over a similar issue when it applied to become a party opponent. (It was not about an organ.)

 

There is no easy answer to this. I am faced with a very fine organ on my 'patch' that will almost certainly become redundant. As soon as the consultation process is compete I will try and find it a home. I shall certainly ask permission to post details on this site. Mr Mander kindly consented to my doing so with the Grazeley organ, but professional courtesy demands that consent is sought on a case by case basis.

 

Barry Williams

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