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Mander Organs
Nick Bennett

Manchester Town Hall

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3 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

The reality is that local councils have a number of statutory legal duties such as providing care to elderly people and vulnerable children. Central government funding to local authorities has been reduced so much in recent years that some are at the point where even if they spent their entire budget on the things they have a legal obligation to provide for they would no longer be able to afford to meet all their obligations. Consequently the non-statutory functions like litter collections in parks, weekly dustbin rounds, keeping libraries open and tuning the organ in the town hall are not so much low priority as no priority since they will point out, "if we spend money on organ repairs and an old person comes to harm because we haveen't spent enough on elderly care we could be taken to court". Some more fortunate councils have access to income streams, historic reserve savings and sources of funding not available to other areas, hence the extent to which non-statutory services are deprioritised varies. Perhaps Leeds with its reputation and piano competition and sponsorship deals etc can generate a big enough income to keep the hall's organ in concert-worthy condition, but there are only so many such venues in the country that can do so.

Those of us who are organ lovers need to recognise that in the present climate, if we want organs to be preserved, then increasingly it's our pockets or our fundraising skills that need to contribute to tuning, maintenance, repairs and rebuilds as noone else is going to pay. Unless we pay directly ourselves or manage to raise funds through channels such as the Lottery fund, we cannot expect every church and other building with a historic organ in need of restoration to somehow find the money themselves. The only other option to keep organs going is for organbuilders to radically reduce the costs of maintaining and restoring organs without compromising their quality or playability, though that debate is perhaps important enough to be continued through on the organ building part of this forum. After all, if the Manchester Town Hall organ could be reinstated and fully restored for say £10,000 then even a cash strapped council might just about manage that. At £1 million plus, it's almost a guarenteed non-starter with council funds.

well put, and its so true

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14 hours ago, Contrabombarde said:

... The only other option to keep organs going is for organbuilders to radically reduce the costs of maintaining and restoring organs without compromising their quality or playability, though that debate is perhaps important enough to be continued through on the organ building part of this forum. After all, if the Manchester Town Hall organ could be reinstated and fully restored for say £10,000 then even a cash strapped council might just about manage that. At £1 million plus, it's almost a guarenteed non-starter with council funds.

Forgive me, but I assume this statement was made with tongue in cheek precisely to encourage the debate here (which of course would be a Good Thing), otherwise I can't see how the suggestion is any more practical than expecting local government to provide the funding!  From what I know of organ builders' profit margins it would seem unlikely that they could reduce a tender from £1M to £10k ...

It's only stating what everyone knows to say that good quality organ building is hugely expensive.  I know of a tiny 2M/P instrument in a church with not many worshippers which was overhauled recently by a well-reputed firm costing some £120k.  This was only possible because of lottery funding, without which I doubt it could have gone ahead.

Just one story of many.

CEP

 

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Contrabombarde is 100% correct about local authority funding. 

Leeds is a shining beacon.  The lunchtime recitals there are free (voluntary donation), also with a free printed programme.  The appointment of Darius Battiwalla as City Organist last year was an inspired decision - he plays a complete recital from memory, and happily works with his distinguished predecessor Simon Lindley who still contributes to the imaginative programmes.  

It’s a pity that the recitals at Leeds and Huddersfield Town Hall (also Birmingham TH) usually clash but, on other days, in Yorkshire there is Hull City Hall and, over the Pennines in Liverpool, St George’s Hall both providing regular lunchtime recitals on magnificent organs.  It’s no secret that funding is a problem at Liverpool, and there is currently an appeal for restoration of the Father Willis/ HW III masterpiece - from which, nevertheless, Ian Tracey is still able to coax the most marvellous sounds!

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As from the "proper" side of the Pennines😉  I can only go on the good fortunes of HCH, Leeds and Huddersfield, in that the calibre of recitalists is high, and that their organs are well looked after, and the music programmess are well put together. On "other side of the hills, the likes of Manchester, has 2 newish organs, the Cathedral and the Bridgewater hall. In what is relatively smaller city, is there room for a 3rd large instrument, albeit an organ by the esteemed C-C?, given what is regarded as a cash poor council, (as all councils are) 

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‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’

And, that’s only one way to go. Manchester, as one of the UK’s great musical/sporting/education/insert other criteria cities, has so much to offer. In the last few decades, as has been stated, the Bridgewater Hall and now the Cathedral have had major new instruments.

Well-run, imaginative and innovative fund-raising should, easily, meet its target. The Town Hall is a glorious building and is entitled to the restoration of its Cavaillé-Coll. There are football clubs, rich people, a thriving social scene . . . Can we not reach out to these and evoke civic pride ? Is it really beyond a primary school (or whatever they’re called, these days), say, to sponsor a pipe ? Only by new thinking (!) like this will some of our greatest organ heritage be saved from the ‘skip’.

We cannot expect commercial enterprises (organ builders) to stop paying their skilled employees and work for next to nowt. They would go under immediately.

There is a parallel situation in Middlesbrough, with their Town Hall and its historic Hill.

I fervently hope that both instruments are given the recognition and restoration they so deserve.

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13 hours ago, John Furse said:

‘Where there’s a will, there’s a way.’

 

And, that’s only one way to go. Manchester, as one of the UK’s great musical/sporting/education/insert other criteria cities, has so much to offer. In the last few decades, as has been stated, the Bridgewater Hall and now the Cathedral have had major new instruments.

 

Well-run, imaginative and innovative fund-raising should, easily, meet its target. The Town Hall is a glorious building and is entitled to the restoration of its Cavaillé-Coll. There are football clubs, rich people, a thriving social scene . . . Can we not reach out to these and evoke civic pride ? Is it really beyond a primary school (or whatever they’re called, these days), say, to sponsor a pipe ? Only by new thinking (!) like this will some of our greatest organ heritage be saved from the ‘skip’.

 

We cannot expect commercial enterprises (organ builders) to stop paying their skilled employees and work for next to nowt. They would go under immediately.

 

There is a parallel situation in Middlesbrough, with their Town Hall and its historic Hill.

 

I fervently hope that both instruments are given the recognition and restoration they so deserve.

 

 

I don't disagree with any of that! 

Perhaps it is time for those in charge of these instruments to 'get off their backsides', stop whinging about how hard it is and about how little the authorities care and do something about it! There is money to be had out there. It isn't always easy to find but, with imagination, and, sometimes, a little cheek, money can be forthcoming.

Years ago I took a church choir to Rome. I needed money to do it. The church I worked at had a religious community attached to it. They had a number of cars, in the community,  which they bought from a local dealership. I went, cap in hand, to the dealership and got £500 out of them - a good deal of money in 1989! Remember the Porsche console at Leipzig!!! Manchester has two of the richest football clubs in the country - that must be worth a touch! And the list goes on! Sometimes it is worth employing a fundraiser to get in money - it's out there - it just needs finding!!!

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Interestingly, Thomas Trotter’s opening recital on the new Kenneth Tickell organ at Manchester Cathedral was attended by the Lord Lieutenant and, seemingly, every mayor from Lancashire (and possibly beyond), all wearing their chains of office.  Civic pride in the new organ was very evident.  Of course there was a very hefty individual donation.

Possible problems at Manchester Town Hall are that (presumably) the City Council owns the organ and, on that basis, would be the only body at present able to let the necessary contract for the organ’s restoration.  All fund-raising would have to be subject to strict safeguards that the money wouldn't be used for other purposes.  We are talking about very large amounts and, yes, accountants and lawyers would be involved!  HM Revenue and Customs would want to know all the details.  If it chose to do so, the City Council could set up a charitable trust which would safeguard the purposes and use of the funds and allow donors to make Gift Aid declarations.

But the starting point is whether the City Council will go along with these ideas.  They, in fact, are the people “in charge”.

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Apparently one of the strikers at Manchester United earns £650,000 per week? He could pay for it outright if he donated his wages for just a month! 

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I missed Peter Gunstone’s earlier post on 13th August 2014:

“The Manchester Cavaillé-Coll Organ Trust has been established by Richard Lowe "to protect, restore and promote this unique musical instrument which contains more Cavaillé-Coll pipework than any other organ in the UK".

 

https://www.facebook.com/groups/656785384416876/

The present state of play isn’t clear, but in 2017 the City Council were supportive of the project.

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15 hours ago, S_L said:

Perhaps it is time for those in charge of these instruments to 'get off their backsides', stop whinging about how hard it is and about how little the authorities care and do something about it! There is money to be had out there. It isn't always easy to find but, with imagination, and, sometimes, a little cheek, money can be forthcoming.

Whilst I would support that, I'm afraid we as a country are lacking in the continuing fervent interest in the organ as found in such places as Germany and the Netherlands.  They seem to have new organs springing up all over the place!

I don't know exactly why that should be, but that is the impression I get anyway.

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8 hours ago, John Robinson said:

Whilst I would support that, I'm afraid we as a country are lacking in the continuing fervent interest in the organ as found in such places as Germany and the Netherlands.  They seem to have new organs springing up all over the place!

I don't know exactly why that should be, but that is the impression I get anyway.

That's a misapprehension that you, in the UK, seem to make all the time. The Dutch and German firms are busy but so are British firms. Look at the number of big, major, new projects, in the UK, ongoing and in the last couple of years! Off the top of my head -  Manchester, Canterbury, Buckfast, Llandaff and the list of major rebuilds and restorations, ongoing or in the pipeline, is even bigger - York, Bristol, Norwich - and half a dozen more! And then there are the smaller instruments and some from abroad and the historical magnificent reconstructions - Christ Church Spitalfields for instance! Given time the list of exciting ventures in organ building in the UK is considerable!

A bit more 'half full' and less 'half empty' would be a good start! 'Getting off backsides' is one thing but getting rid of 'long faces' and stopping complaining about how hard done by the organ world is another!  It's not all doom and gloom by any stretch of the imaginiation! A year or so ago there was a thread on lack of organ music at the 'Proms'. I remember spending half an hour looking at the number of organ recitals, in London alone, during the 'Prom' season. If I remember it amounted to over a hundred recitals - given my eminent players and, perhaps, some less eminent players. but, on here, it was pushed aside in favour of 'no organ music at the Proms'!!

And I won't get on my hobby-horse and comment about what we are like when a new instrument comes our way!!!.

Sorry ladies and gents - it's early - I'll go back to bed!!!

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I feel that both sides of this interesting discussion are correct in one way or another.  On the one hand I find there is almost no awareness of the organ on the part of the majority of the British public, who go about their daily business quite unaware of it.  Like many members of this forum I imagine, if I happen to mention that my interests include the organ at (say) a social function, most people express genuine interest amounting to astonishment because it's something they have seldom if ever come across before.  They gather round and are quite eager to hear all about it.  So after such an exchange, were I to hypothetically rattle a collecting tin under their noses in aid of the local church instrument I bet most of them would be pleased to contribute.  This suggests that perhaps part of the problem is in educating the public in the best and broadest sense, without wishing to be snooty and patronising about it.  One of the problems bedevilling the British organ scene is that some of it is without doubt snooty, elitist and patronising.  Although that (thankfully) small circle may well be able to get on fine as far as they themselves are concerned, I'm afraid they do the instrument no favours against the wider and more important backdrop of its longer term survival.

Yet S_L's more positive view from afar is also a true and valuable reflection in that he is simply quoting facts which are unassailable.  It's all to easy to get disheartened if we don't look at the issues from a wide enough perspective.  It's certainly true that there is a lot of activity in the British organ world which people such as us are so familiar with that maybe we tend to disregard it for what it actually is.  For instance, whenever I receive my (print) copy of Organists' Review the first thing that happens is that lots of well-produced advertising material drops out of it onto the table concerning upcoming events in the major cities, or even CDs containing tempting tasters about recently published music, organ and choral recordings or even the latest digital organ on offer.   Whether we read or listen to such material or not is rather beside the point.  The fact is that lots is going on all the time and we only have to look slightly below the surface to find it.

CEP

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Agree with the majority of both S_L’s and Colin’s posts.

Whilst ‘the organ’ is usually a niche market, it needn’t always be. A well-targeted and publicised campaign, led by one or more ‘names’ can do the trick. Just look at the effect/success of Blue Planet II.

One of the advantages of being a sole/major donor is that you can get your name attached to said ground/building/instrument. And this applies in the most prestigious of institutions, too.

 

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At today’s date organrecitals.com lists 416 different organists giving recitals at 240 different UK venues, mostly in the winter months.  The figures are larger at other times.  There is no shortage of recitals or talented players in this country.  Obviously audience sizes vary.  Publicity is important but sometimes sadly lacking.  

 

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Much debate here, but does anyone actually know what is happening at the Town Hall?  The City Council were considering a proposal from The Manchester Cavaillé-Coll Organ Foundation last year for the organ’s restoration.

The 2017 Kenneth Tickell organ in Manchester Cathedral is known as the ‘Stoller Organ’, named after the principal donor.

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Lottery money would seem to be the best bet, and there's no doubt that the organ deserves it.  The only problem I can foresee is that the Lottery folk might insist on a return to the original Cavaille-Coll scheme and size, which would probably be more expensive and, in my view, would remove additions which are also historic as well as being interesting and and asset to the instrument.

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Yes, lottery money and/or a wealthy sponsor would doubtless help but, please, everyone, look at the website organfoundation.org.uk.  There has been so much unnecessary speculation on this thread!  The job is already in hand, and the website gives the proposed new specification (which does appear to be a restoration of the original Cavaillé-Coll).  The trustees of the Manchester Cavaillé-Coll Organ Foundation include Simon Leach and Christopher Stokes.  There is much more information on the website.

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The "proposed" spec looks very good, and will push the organ into "super stardom" in the North West/UK organ scene 😊

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On ‎30‎/‎10‎/‎2018 at 22:27, Rowland Wateridge said:

website organfoundation.org.uk.  There has been so much unnecessary speculation on this thread!  The job is already in hand, and the website gives the proposed new specification (which does appear to be a restoration of the original Cavaillé-Coll).  The trustees of the Manchester Cavaillé-Coll Organ Foundation include Simon Leach and Christopher Stokes.  There is much more information on the website.

It's a pity I didn't discover the website sooner. This all looks excellent. I can only wish success for the whole project. It could become an example of how to 'reach out to' and educate (in the widest sense, as Colin writes above) the public in the organ, its non-liturgical repertoire and its life outside church buildings. All of these things pertained in Victorian Britain: civic pride, educating the 'masses', an interest in cultural enrichment and 'improvement', etc.

A series of silent films with improvised accompaniment; the sentiments of Copland in his Fanfare for the Common Man and its 'outings' by Emerson, Lake & Palmer are just two instances. The wheel doesn't need re-invention, but imaginative and innovative application. (But, not like the apocryphal committee who re-designed the horse with five legs, so that it neither went forward nor back.)

The casework and pipes seem to have been cleaned - recently ? They look gorgeous. The sound, even now, is a thrilling foretaste of what we could hear in a few years. 

The principal donor at the Cathedral having his name 'attached' to the instrument proves the point I made in my Tuesday post. Everything (legal) should be attempted in these cases - short of extortion ! The rich are used to being asked for dosh. It's the manner of asking that matters.

Good luck MTH. 

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The fact that the Cathedral organist is one of the trustees is an optimistic sign.  Everyone became very anxious about the long gestation period at the Cathedral, but the result was a triumph - and a generous donor was found!

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On 28/10/2018 at 08:00, Colin Pykett said:

Forgive me, but I assume this statement was made with tongue in cheek precisely to encourage the debate here (which of course would be a Good Thing), otherwise I can't see how the suggestion is any more practical than expecting local government to provide the funding!  From what I know of organ builders' profit margins it would seem unlikely that they could reduce a tender from £1M to £10k ...

It's only stating what everyone knows to say that good quality organ building is hugely expensive.  I know of a tiny 2M/P instrument in a church with not many worshippers which was overhauled recently by a well-reputed firm costing some £120k.  This was only possible because of lottery funding, without which I doubt it could have gone ahead.

Just one story of many.

CEP

 

Bit of both really. I'm not seriously suggesting that someone should try to beat a £1 million repair estimate with an offer to do the job for £10,000 as that would inevitably result in a disaster. However, I don't think it's unreasonable to ask how organs could be built (or rebuilt) in a more resilient and affordably repairable manner. At one church I used to play at was a Norman and Beard which would have been magnificent if it could actually get wind to the pipes. Unfortunately the reservoirs were actually part of the building frame so the only way they could be releathered would have been to have totally dismantled the organ. The pneumatic action motors were equally inaccessible, and whilst not all needed replacing, they couldn't be done in situ meaning everything would have had to be done at the same time before putting the thing back together again as there would be no point replacing only the ones that had already failed whilst the others were accessible.

A church in my neck of the woods has a quite respectable large four manual organ built almost entirely by members of the congregation and is often played in concerts, which demonstrates that it is possible (though rare) to build and maintain a large and perfectly decent organ on a shoestring. I know of at least four people who have built or relocated pipe organs of three or even more manuals in their homes. Those however are exceptions rather than the norm. My question - perhaps better addressed on the organ building part of this forum - is about whether we can encourage more cost-effective and innovative organ building, and whether there are innovative ways of maintaining quality without the need for spending such colossal sums rebuilding organs. If actions could be better protected, more easily accessed and modular, so that parts could be simpler and less expensive to replace individually when they failed rather than having to replace the entire action, if reservoirs could be releathered without having to dismantle the entire organ perhaps....

....perhaps we would have more organs in good working order, more interest in playing them, if the cost of ownership could fall. And if the cost of ownership could fall, would that lead in turn to a resurgence of business for the organ building trade?

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