Jump to content
Mander Organs

Percy Daniel & Co


AJJ

Recommended Posts

As Director of Music at a Church with a Daniel rebuilt organ I have a letter from Cawston Organs introducing themselves as having taken over PD's assets and goodwill. According to the letter, all the Daniels staff have been retained and they seem to be operating out of the same office with the same 'phone number.

 

Chris Manners (who has been very poorly and is "nearing retirement") stays on as a consultant.

 

I look forward to hearing what Cawstons have to say about my particular instrument which is now heading for middle age (15 years) and is starting to become somewhat temperamental.. I hope also that they now keep their tuning in house. Often our instrument was ineffectively tuned by local subcontractors.

 

I also look forward to a more responsive relationship with the builder.. so often I asked for information, prices etc. and received very little response in return..

Link to post
Share on other sites

Percy Daniel have quite simply vandalised some really exquisite instruments beyond reasonable repair or even functional playing. I have personal experience of three, only one of which we could rescue, and the recent BIOS article about a highly historic early 1800's chamber organ to which they applied electric action and tab stop control should tell us all we need to know. I hope they are doing more responsible work these days and wish them well, though I confess to quiet personal glee when I learned they had to be put into liquidation in order for Mr Cawston to complete the transaction. Apparantely their horizontal reed and work at whichever Welsh cathedral it is at has been really rather good, and I have seen new instruments of theirs that have some extremely high quality and solid cabinet and electrical work, just less successful tonally. Is the name Daniels to be abandoned or continued?

Link to post
Share on other sites
As Director of Music at a Church with a Daniel rebuilt organ I have a letter from Cawston Organs introducing themselves as having taken over PD's assets and goodwill. According to the letter, all the Daniels staff have been retained and they seem to be operating out of the same office with the same 'phone number.

......

I look forward to hearing what Cawstons have to say about my particular instrument which is now heading for middle age (15 years) and is starting to become somewhat temperamental..  I hope also that they now keep their tuning in house. Often our instrument was ineffectively tuned by local subcontractors.

 

I also look forward to a more responsive relationship with the builder.. so often I asked for information, prices etc. and received very little response in return..

I hear this with a degree of dismay. I have aproached Daniels on a few occasions trying to find an organ for a small chapel and have always had a friendly reply from Chris Manners.

 

Chris Manners (who has been very poorly and is "nearing retirement") stays on as a consultant.

I wish him well in his retirement and wish him a full recovery. I remember him as the man who, at a time wwhen I was young and had an interest in Organ Building (when I was about 7 y.o, I think), gave me a tour around the Clevedon workshop.

 

..... though I confess to quiet personal glee when I learned they had to be put into liquidation in order for Mr Cawston to complete the transaction.

You confess to what you like, mate. I confess to the direct opposite!

 

Apparantely their horizontal reed and work at whichever Welsh cathedral it is at has been really rather good, and I have seen new instruments of theirs that have some extremely high quality and solid cabinet and electrical work, just less successful tonally.

That will be Brecon Cathedral. Choir & Organ did an article after the work on that organ had been done.

 

Dave

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Leathered-Lips
Percy Daniel have quite simply vandalised some really exquisite instruments beyond reasonable repair or even functional playing.  I have personal experience of three, only one of which we could rescue, and the recent BIOS article about a highly historic early 1800's chamber organ to which they applied electric action and tab stop control should tell us all we need to know.  I hope they are doing more responsible work these days and wish them well, though I confess to quiet personal glee when I learned they had to be put into liquidation in order for Mr Cawston to complete the transaction.  Apparantely their horizontal reed and work at whichever Welsh cathedral it is at has been really rather good, and I have seen new instruments of theirs that have some extremely high quality and solid cabinet and electrical work, just less successful tonally.  Is the name Daniels to be abandoned or continued?

 

 

AWWWWWW, you bitch!!!!!!!!! :D

Link to post
Share on other sites
Percy Daniel have quite simply vandalised some really exquisite instruments beyond reasonable repair or even functional playing.  I have personal experience of three, only one of which we could rescue, and the recent BIOS article about a highly historic early 1800's chamber organ to which they applied electric action and tab stop control should tell us all we need to know.  I hope they are doing more responsible work these days and wish them well, though I confess to quiet personal glee when I learned they had to be put into liquidation in order for Mr Cawston to complete the transaction. 

Well I wouldn't wish ill upon anybody and its always sad to hear of firms going to the wall, but I do agree that their work often failed to produce musical results. In this part of the country (I live in Cheltenham) there are a great many organs rebuilt by Daniel's in the 60's and 70's with new mixture stops added. Without exception these stops are unspeakably foul. A church in Cheltenham at which I was a previous organist (St. Mary's, Prestbury) had a very fine, but limited 2-manual Walker organ completely rebuilt and extended by Daniel's in the 90's. When I learned the contract had gone to Daniel's I warned various people of my fears for the results. As it turned out the general workmanship was fine, a very nice drawstop console was built, but the tonal result was quite dreadful. This is now easily the most unpleasant organ in Cheltenham.

Link to post
Share on other sites
.... As it turned out the general workmanship was fine, a very nice drawstop console was built, but the tonal result was quite dreadful. This is now easily the most unpleasant organ in Cheltenham.

 

But what of the role of the DOA and the organ's owners/curators/players in all of this? Surely they have to be culpable too if the end result lacks cohesion? Builder-bashing is all well and good but what of those advising, those paying the bill and those that have to live/play with the result? I fancy they have to take some flak in this as well!

Link to post
Share on other sites
But what of the role of the DOA and the organ's owners/curators/players in all of this? Surely they have to be culpable too if the end result lacks cohesion? Builder-bashing is all well and good but what of those advising, those paying the bill and those that have to live/play with the result? I fancy they have to take some flak in this as well!

 

 

1) The DOA system has long been suspect. In any case, they can only advise on a paper scope of works. The decision on who does the work is down to the church, though in extreme cases I have heard of builders being banned from going anywhere near certain diocese.

 

2) Those paying the bill all too often don't pay heed to those who have to play.

 

3) Those playing all too often don't know what an organ should sound like, regrettably.

 

As for being a bitch - well, come and look at the instruments in question. I challenge you not to weep and rend your hair. One of them was, as it happens, a Daniel mixture made from a secondhand flute - an unbroken 19.22 perched on top of very, very soft Bishop fluework. To compound matters they chose to remove (rather than repair) the wind stabilising equipment. It was unuseable from the word go.

Link to post
Share on other sites
1)  The DOA system has long been suspect.  In any case, they can only advise on a paper scope of works...

 

So is it the case then that the DOA doesn't get involved after the scope has been signed off? I find it hard to believe that any DOA worth their salt doesn't keep involved at some level all the way through, to the point of "signing off" the work at each stage and authorising release of payment?

Link to post
Share on other sites
So is it the case then that the DOA doesn't get involved after the scope has been signed off? I find it hard to believe that any DOA worth their salt doesn't keep involved at some level all the way through, to the point of "signing off" the work at each stage and authorising release of payment?

 

With major jobs, probably - the majority of work, and also Daniel's work, is small to medium parishes. Ironically, these are also where there is the least knowledge about the organ, and where the most careful work is needed. I could reel off dozens of small organs round here which are just horrid beyond words, but all of them are Walkers and Sweetlands and Bishops and Binns and Bevingtons, beautifully made and, originally, making quite an exciting (or certainly musical) sound. These are also the instruments where new/young players are trying to get inspired to carry on and improve. I always gave Mr Manners the benefit of the doubt until I once asked him if they could regulate my Sw to Gt coupler - the plucks were coinciding, and fiendishly heavy, and I wanted one to come just after the other - and he looked at me in complete incredulity and said "It's only a parish organ, young man, not Westminster Abbey!" There is no excuse for any musical instrument being treated with that kind of disrespect, let alone a mid 1800's instrument with reeds, manual doubles and mixtures by an extremely high quality builder as this one was. On that rebuild, we saw the DOA up to the point of getting the faculty, and after that the standing committee ran the job. I'm sure if the DOA had witnessed some of the horror stories we uncovered they would have been very interested indeed.

Link to post
Share on other sites
As Director of Music at a Church with a Daniel rebuilt organ

....

my particular instrument which is now heading for middle age (15 years) and is starting to become somewhat temperamental...

 

This says so much: An organ that is becoming temperamental after 15 years is to me a warning sign that the organ isn't of great quality - or of much lasting value.

 

These maintenance schedules put these types of organ on about the same lifespan as an electronic and judging by the other comments on this thread - nice console (lots of stops by any chance?), horrid sound - in the same aesthetic too.

 

Why bother with an organ like that if you can have a nice new electronic every 20 years with every stop and gizmo you like, never needs tuning and never suffers from wind leaks for the same money? After all, it's the same financial policy and similar results musically (if not better with the eletronic)... :D

Link to post
Share on other sites
This says so much: An organ that is becoming temperamental after 15 years is to me a warning sign that the organ isn't of great quality - or of much lasting value.

 

These maintenance schedules put these types of organ on about the same lifespan as an electronic and judging by the other comments on this thread - nice console (lots of stops by any chance?), horrid sound - in the same aesthetic too.

 

A little harsh? I would have thought 15 years without any problems is quite good for a piece of complicated machinery, even based on a 4 month tuning cycle or whatever. The church it's in is always having something done to it (roof repairs, new floor etc) and even with dust shielding this would have had some effect on the action and other mechanisms...

 

How long should a new organ last without exhibiting any problems? Surely by their very nature they are at least at the mercy of the changing seasons in this country and the associated temperature fluctuations (heated church or not..)

Link to post
Share on other sites
How long should a new organ last without exhibiting any problems? Surely by their very nature they are at least at the mercy of the changing seasons in this country and the associated temperature fluctuations (heated church or not..)

 

You've worried me now. I'm afraid we've been sold a pup!

 

Depends upon the organ, location and use. A mechanical organ in a clean environment should go fine for a long time without much work - say cleaning every 20-25 years, (there shouldn't be problems at that stage) overhaul every 80-100 - releathering bellows, reconditioning action and soundboards, knocking dents out of pipes, etc. Really, it should go on indefinitely if it's good quality.

 

I understand that the William Drake organ at the Grosvenor Chapel hasn't had any faults since it was constructed in 1991. I played it last year and it's still like new. It's had no work done on it and it needs nothing doing to it.

 

There's a preceedent that organ builders at the bottom of the food chain either don't recondition the soundboards while rebuilding/expanding/electricfying the organ or they're forced to re-use and re-condition soundboards that are really beyond economic repair. It's all to do with keeping costs down and competitive against the eletronic option.

 

We were in a similar situation to Mr. Bouffant: Our 1957 Richard Burton organ was getting unreliable and needed work 15 years after its most recent rebuild. Rather than continue throwing money away so frequently on such an unreliable and frankly unworthy organ, we decided on something much higher quality for the long term so we're getting an effectively new organ from H&H. It was a brave decision to make and it's a very exciting time at our church.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Grosvenor gets very heavy use. Viz also Exeter College, Oxford and Jesus College, Oxford: both had new organs at exactly the same time, in exactly the same week. Exeter had a Walker that kept breaking down and has quite a lot that is suspect about its design and construction. Jesus had a Bill Drake that is immaculate to this day, much like Grosvenor. His workmanship is so unbelievably good, it's just a shame he doesn't move his tonal thinking forward say 50 years to the heydey of Gray & Davidson/Walker/Bevington rather than staying in G.P.England-land.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Grosvenor gets very heavy use.  Viz also Exeter College, Oxford and Jesus College, Oxford:  both had new organs at exactly the same time, in exactly the same week.  Exeter had a Walker that kept breaking down and has quite a lot that is suspect about its design and construction.  Jesus had a Bill Drake that is immaculate to this day, much like Grosvenor.  His workmanship is so unbelievably good, it's just a shame he doesn't move his tonal thinking forward say 50 years to the heydey of Gray & Davidson/Walker/Bevington rather than staying in G.P.England-land.

 

Interesting on 2 counts. We invited Bill Drake to look at our project - he seemed keen on it and our consultant was keen to introduce to Bill the idea of doing a project in the period you mention above. Unfortunately, this won't happen this time round.

 

I also remember speaking with Bill about the organ at Exeter College while it was under construction. I got the impression that he didn't find the sounds emanating from Exeter were quite to his taste...

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think what the above comments suggest is that at the top end we have 4 or 5 organ building firms such as Manders, and at the other end a similiar number of small firms such as Bill Drake or Goetze & Gwynne, all of which are a byword for quality and craftsmanship and usually get most high profile contracts, providing they haven't gone abroad.

 

And then in the middle we have a multitude of local organ builders such as Percy Daniel where the quality of workmanship and finish can be quite variable, but which are probably not as expensive as the big players for what are in the main small parish church organs, where there isn't much money rubbing around anyway.

 

Jeremy Jones

London

Link to post
Share on other sites

Into which last catergory I would tentatively insert Walkers. I've never found a recent mechanical action of theirs I was really happy with. The pre-1870 stuff is mechanically, design-wise and tonally far superior to anything they have produced since (apart from Bristol Cathedral, and a couple of fairly inspired things in the mid 60's that were at least better than their contemporaries were producing). In my opinion. Exeter is much, much too forced for the building its in and full of really tatty rubbish - like those blue and yellow "pipes" either side of the case, which are just painted onto a piece of MDF. Ugh.

Link to post
Share on other sites
probably not as expensive as the big players for what are in the main small parish church organs, where there isn't much money rubbing around anyway.

 

And, then, there are some outstanding locally based craftsmen who do a really top-notch, Mander/Drake/Harrison quality job or better, are cheaper than the PD's of this world, but don't get a look in.

Link to post
Share on other sites
And, then, there are some outstanding locally based craftsmen who do a really top-notch, Mander/Drake/Harrison quality job or better, are cheaper than the PD's of this world, but don't get a look in.

... I guess Robert Shaftoe falls into this category... only heard hearsay of his work from some eminent people... has anyone played and looked at one of his organs?

Link to post
Share on other sites
Into which last catergory I would tentatively insert Walkers.  I've never found a recent mechanical action of theirs I was really happy with.  The pre-1870 stuff is mechanically, design-wise and tonally far superior to anything they have produced since (apart from Bristol Cathedral, and a couple of fairly inspired things in the mid 60's that were at least better than their contemporaries were producing).  In my opinion.  Exeter is much, much too forced for the building its in and full of really tatty rubbish - like those blue and yellow "pipes" either side of the case, which are just painted onto a piece of MDF.  Ugh.

They do good restoration work - Romsey Abbey is often cited. But I know that a few people were upset to see the pedal action and stop action go there... Have'nt played one of their most recent new organs - what's the situation there- is Sebastian Mekin running the show.

 

Peter Collins also does surprisingly good restoration work, so I'm told.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well I wouldn't wish ill upon anybody and its always sad to hear of firms going to the wall, but I do agree that their work often failed to produce musical results. In this part of the country (I live in Cheltenham) there are a great many organs rebuilt by Daniel's in the 60's and 70's with new mixture stops added. Without exception these stops are unspeakably foul. A church in Cheltenham at which I was a previous organist (St. Mary's, Prestbury) had a very fine, but limited 2-manual Walker organ completely rebuilt and extended by Daniel's in the 90's. When I learned the contract had gone to Daniel's I warned various people of my fears for the results. As it turned out the general workmanship was fine, a very nice drawstop console was built, but the tonal result was quite dreadful. This is now easily the most unpleasant organ in Cheltenham.

I've had a look at the specs of this on NPOR. A rather nice 2 manual 14 stop Walker got mercilessly extended. In came EP action, thumb pistons, etc. This is the sort of work that should never happen to small organs. It affects everything - pipe speech needs altering for conversion from mechanical to EP action - it changes the entire instrument. There should be laws against that sort of thing. If they needed more power on the organ, they possibly could have filled the spare slides with a Trumpet and Mixture and not created a nasty behemoth that needs the maintenance schedule of a poorly cathedral organ to keep it running. Money badly spent. A straightforward overhaul, filling the spare slides if necessary with appropriate material would have cost less and have much better results.

 

There used to be a similar walker organ in Winchester - same size and provenance, which had been untouched. It was easily one of the nicest organs in Winchester until its unfortunate departure last year.

Link to post
Share on other sites
I've had a look at the specs of this on NPOR. A rather nice 2 manual 14 stop Walker got mercilessly extended. In came EP action, thumb pistons, etc. This is the sort of work that should never happen to small organs. It affects everything - pipe speech needs altering for conversion from mechanical to EP action - it changes the entire instrument. There should be laws against that sort of thing. If they needed more power on the organ, they possibly could have filled the spare slides with a Trumpet and Mixture and not created a nasty behemoth that needs the maintenance schedule of a poorly cathedral organ to keep it running. Money badly spent. A straightforward overhaul, filling the spare slides if necessary with appropriate material would have cost less and have much better results.

 

There are still a number of firms doing the old 'EP plus extending' bit - usually smaller instruments by 'non-top-notch' firms in the first place, perfectly suited to their role - more in need of overhaul, cleaning and maybe judicious tonal adjustments than complete reincarnation. Frequently a large (and sometimes mobile) console appears, more pistons than stops and the whole thing then is transformed out of all recognition. The trouble is that on occasions the new work sounds tacked on - ok, impressive stop manipulation can now be achieved and on the surface the extended reed chorus L, R & C appears impressive - likewise the gleaming new console but ultimately what has actually been achieved? More often than not temporary gloss till the whole lot needs sorting out when either people get fed up with it or it starts to show its age. (There are also instruments that seem to be in a constant state of rebuild with things being added and changed every few years - one wonders where the money comes from. One such 3 manual in an important eclesiastical establishment comes to mind - transformed with new mixtures and mutations in the 70s, more tinkering in the 80s, fairly recent 'beefing up' on with a new solo reed etc. and now five or six digital stops are to be added to further 'beef up' the Pedal section with 16s and 32s that could not possibly be fitted in any other way.)

Having spent the last few years playing 1 & 2 manual Victorian village organs together with the occasional 'town church' 3 manual - all in near original condition and a couple recently restored to pristine condition by local builders with hertiage lottery grants (and all that involves) I now appreciate their worth far more than in my heady youth. My playing reflects the instruments (I have not had any complaints yet) and I do not long for all the electronics or the ability to move the console on a weekly basis.

This has strayed a bit from the Daniels topic and is not meant to be a reflection of their work directly - as I started the topic I suppose i'ts my right to stray a little!

 

AJJ

Link to post
Share on other sites

Let me bring it back kinda to the original area of discussion. So here I am, I have a 15 year old organ which was rebuilt by PD.. Yes, it has the obligatory new mobile console.. Part of the organ which was rebuilt was purchased from another church, the other part is the original instrument for the church, manipulated wholesale by various builders over the years (including one of my predecessors!)

 

I would therefore be reluctant to say there is anything within it of historic interest or that is typical of a particular period or school of English Organ Building. It is an instrument which is very suitable to it's primary purpose of accompanying congregational singing and the choir.

 

I find it a flexible enough recital and examination instrument.

 

The thing is, it is starting to play tricks and I had thought this might be typical of an instrument of this age. Reading many of the detailed and knowledgeable responses in this thread has me worried that is certainly not the case. The quirks at the moment are all very minor but I worry they are prelude to bigger problems to come.

 

The question is therefore what do I do? Do I commission a thorough survey by Cawston Organs now they have purchased PD and see how the land lies? Or do I convince the PCC with appropriate arguments to employ someone else to do it? What is the "correct" approach here? Any thoughts appreciated..

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Leathered-Lips
Let me bring it back kinda to the original area of discussion. So here I am, I have a 15 year old organ which was rebuilt by PD.. Yes, it has the obligatory new mobile console.. Part of the organ which was rebuilt was purchased from another church, the other part is the original instrument for the church, manipulated wholesale by various builders over the years (including one of my predecessors!)

 

I would therefore be reluctant to say there is anything within it of historic interest or that is typical of a particular period or school of English Organ Building. It is an instrument which is very suitable to it's primary purpose of accompanying congregational singing and the choir.

 

I find it a flexible enough recital and examination instrument.

 

The thing is, it is starting to play tricks and I had thought this might be typical of an instrument of this age. Reading many of the detailed and knowledgeable responses in this thread has me worried that is certainly not the case. The quirks at the moment are all very minor but I worry they are prelude to bigger problems to come.

 

The question is therefore what do I do? Do I commission a thorough survey by Cawston Organs now they have purchased PD and see how the land lies? Or do I convince the PCC with appropriate arguments to employ someone else to do it? What is the "correct" approach here? Any thoughts appreciated..

 

I suppose it rather depends how good you feel the organ is, possibly trying the new firm for a couple of tunings and see if you are happy with them and whether the minor faults get sorted as a matter of course. Of course you may decide that the builder you've had has been making such a bish of it over the course of time that it'd be best to look for a completely new opinion. Although I think I read that the PD staff are being retained so don't expect miracles from the new company necessarily. I can still remember AH in the tuning book under the old firm who didn't seem particularly good either. I had heard from a friend that that one has long departed the old company, but I may be wrong.

 

You have every right not to go for Cawston organs, so far as I am aware, your old contract (if you had one), would have been with PD. An ideal time to get the company and new staff you *really* want maybe? I don't think I'd use them as a personal preference going on past experience of the former company, but I suppose Cawstons could possibly turn things round....maybe? I have heard some good work by Deane Organ Builders of Taunton before now. They seemed to do more regulation as a matter of course, and seemed generally less pompous. Proper pipe regulation is so important of course, it frequently seems to be overlooked by some lesser firms.

 

Edna

 

X

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...