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Hlf Grants For Organs


John Sayer
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Am I alone in my surprise at the munificence of £349k HLF grant for the restoration of the organ at St Michael's, Cornhill?

 

The announcement makes much of the historic provenance of the instrument - see Cornhill.

 

However, one would not have expected an organ which has been through quite so many transformations to meet the strict criteria normally set by the HLF. I can think of other - dare I say - more distinguished instruments of worthier pedigree which have failed to secure much smaller grants.

 

Although the HLF lays great importance on educational outreach - and what is proposed at St Michael's is doubtless commendable - one cannot help thinking such a sum would have gone a long way towards a new organ of real quality (such as that at St Giles, Cripplegate) which would have met those aims - and maybe also the musical needs of the church - more effectively.

 

JS

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We investiageted HLF grants as a help to restoring our organ. It is presently a three manual instrument situated in the choir (pipes one side, console the other) having been moved there in the 60's during the last rebuild, before that being situated in what is now the remembrance chapel, as a two manual instrument.

 

The HLF was only prepared to give us money if it was towards 'back-restoring' the organ to this lesser state!

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT
Am I alone in my surprise at the munificence of £349k HLF grant for the restoration of the organ at St Michael's, Cornhill?

 

The announcement makes much of the historic provenance of the instrument - see Cornhill.

JS

 

Surely this is more worthy for posting in 79 days time.

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Excellent news for London and the organ scene in general, and an instrument worthy of restoring. I went to a recital about 18 months ago when one whole manual was out of action (made the Widor symphony rather tricky).

 

Howevere, one hates to be cynical here, but, isn't the education work that the article outlines a little short sighted? £350k for a school to do a project on dismantling and then putting together an organ? What about after that, surely there has to be some sort of legacy education work involved? (The St Giles one outlined in a previous post is a good example.) My previous involvment with the fund drew a blank before it got started as those churches with even a slightly evangelical aspect won't ask for money that results from an encouragement to gamble? Might I also naughtily suggest that if this church were not in London, such a large sum of money woud have been harder to obtain?

 

Is anyone able to list organs that have attracted similar sums of money from HLF, whether in or out of London?

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Am I alone in my surprise at the munificence of £349k HLF grant for the restoration of the organ at St Michael's, Cornhill?

 

snip

 

 

I know the instrument and Jonathan Rennert pretty well. He deserves support and the organ deserves a decent rebuild, it was never as good following the 1975 work by Messrs Rushworth and Dreaper. [i have a good tale to re-tell on that one, sometime BTW.] Having said that, I believe I have heard which firm has been selected to carry out the restoration and I have my own doubts whether they would be the ideal firm on several counts.

 

For all that I genuinely and sincerely admire what that organ could be and the work that Jonathan and his predecessor (Richard Popplewell - my former professor) both have done, if this report is accurate I find the size of this grant nothing less than obscene and a slap in the face to all sorts of projects that have received *bleep all* in support from HLF. If something like this happened in the education world, my wife would describe an unexpected coup such as this as 'a hand in knickers job'. [Am I allowed to say that?]

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Guest Nigel ALLCOAT

I have gradually become more irritable throughout the day as I have progressed through the links and specifications (1926 and others) of this organ - one that I have concertized upon and heard in the concerts of others.

Such a sum to send this organ back to its 1926 state seems difficult to comprehend when the subsequent dates in its rebuilding life were no doubt to make it a better instrument. If this is the grant of almost £350,000 what is the cost in total? Considering that a recent new organ (2008) in Oxford University cost only less than a quarter more than the stated grant (excluding the structural work but including 3 cases in oak plus full decoration), I am seriously perplexed by this situation. This will have no case included in the cost either. This goes from bad to worse in my mind.

Since 1926 this organ has received rebuilds/attention in 1960, 1975 and 1995. Thus after this proposed restoration another will be on the cards in about 40 years time. What prompted so much attention during these times? This is a big question for me which begs some clear answers. Will the same changes happen in a couple of decades? Why were fundamental changes made to the mixture work since 1926? This seems a profligate waste of funds when the other instrument (mechanical and with no electronic wizardry) to which I refer will last far longer - and at a substantial fraction of the cost, I aver.

Furthermore, I read in previous NPOR that there are a number of Harris ranks lurking. It would interesting to know what happened to them as a survey must have been extremely detailed for this application.

And in conclusion, is 1926 a truly halcyon age which should be so venerated and celebrated? Will the composition of mixtures and reed voicing, not to mention the No 1 & No2 of the Gt be returned to this time? Does leather feature by any chance?

 

As an organ is seen when played or not, it, to my mind needs to be a beautiful adornment to any interior - a fusion of all arts and crafts which certainly gives an indication of the beauty of sound held therein. Some might say the case at St Michael's adequately mirrors its contents. Are we going to see this terrible array of painted gold pipes in this church for ever and ever? A sad judgment day for me when we have a church with such a venerable musical tradition with no instrument of International status.

 

But as for such a sizable grant in this present time, I imagine that it was the educational and other projects associated with the venture that swung it for the deciding committee. (Perhaps other such applications that members have written about had only a cursory nod to the educational side.) This is suggested in the church's press release. How wonderful it would have been for students to see St Michael's return to having a thing of glorious beauty oozing with musical and artistic integrity - worthy of Jonathan and all his endeavours. This surely to me is a retrograde step and gives little creduilty to the HLF which is of course, dealing with our public money - hence my strong, yet very heart-felt observations and comments.

 

Nigel

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The minutes of the HLF Committee that made this awared are here:

http://www.hlf.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D158817...sFebruary28.pdf

 

Interesting to note that they also awarded GBP 297k to St Georges Southall

http://npor.rcm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?...ec_index=A00128

for the organ which went there from St Georges Botolph Lane.

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My initial response was to think that it is perhaps misguided to restore the organ to its 1926 character, and that this was probably only proposed so as to achieve the HLF grant.

 

However, having considered this more carefully, I can understand the reasons for this, although I still have some misgivings. Overall, I think the 1926 specification looks rather more attractive than the present specification on paper. Certainly the 1926 specification looks a better coherent whole than the present specification with its neo-classical additions which look rather incongruous. The 1926 specification was also reasonably equipped with registrational aids although, of course, general pistons would normally be expected in an 'eclectic' concert instrument such as this nowadays.

 

Presumably the organ will revert to pneumatic action. Do we have many organ builders who have sufficient day-to-day dealings with pneumatic action to build such an action well and to maintain such an action for the next 20, 30 or 40 years or more?

 

But I'm pleased to see that the organ is going to be rebuilt. I first played it a number of years ago when I sat the practical part of my ARCM exam there. It was in good order at the time, but I understand that the RCM later had to move organ exams elsewhere as it had started to show signs of failure. When I last gave a recital on it a year ago it had become very unreliable, and was obviously in need of fairly extensive work.

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The minutes of the HLF Committee that made this awared are here:

http://www.hlf.org.uk/NR/rdonlyres/D158817...sFebruary28.pdf

 

Interesting to note that they also awarded GBP 297k to St Georges Southall

http://npor.rcm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?...ec_index=A00128

for the organ which went there from St Georges Botolph Lane.

 

 

And interesting reading they both make, too.

 

One wonders just what sort of professional advice the Committee was given over Cornhill when one reads, "The Committee noted that the Organ at Michael's was unique because it tells the story of three centuries of organ building in the UK". What are we supposed to make of that sort of vacuous statement? It appears also that the total cost of restoration will be £485k.

 

The restoration of the Abraham Jordan organ at St George's, Southall clearly has the backing of BIOS, who seem conspicuously silent on the Cornhill case (I wonder why?) The Committee notes that the restoration of the St George's organ "would involve the removal of all later additions seeing the organ returned to the original Abraham Jordan specification".

 

JS

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And interesting reading they both make, too.

 

One wonders just what sort of professional advice the Committee was given over Cornhill when one reads, "The Committee noted that the Organ at Michael's was unique because it tells the story of three centuries of organ building in the UK". What are we supposed to make of that sort of vacuous statement? It appears also that the total cost of restoration will be £485k.

 

The restoration of the Abraham Jordan organ at St George's, Southall clearly has the backing of BIOS, who seem conspicuously silent on the Cornhill case (I wonder why?) The Committee notes that the restoration of the St George's organ "would involve the removal of all later additions seeing the organ returned to the original Abraham Jordan specification".

 

JS

 

While agreeing with much of the comment on this topic, both objective and subjectice, we know virtually nothing about the Application Document itself which lead to the HLF Committee decision and the minutes are no real assistance either - as all Friends of Sir Humphrey will know already!

 

The use of the word 'unique' may well be a good clue as to why the HLF agreed to this sizable grant for Cornhill.... Care also has to be taken with 'Heritage' and how it is applied to each grant application. The HLF handle many forms of applications and undoubtedly have wide experience and may also have taken other reasons into account rather than just the instrument itself.

 

No doubt in time more details will emerge to substantiate, or otherwise, people's reactions.

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Am I alone in my surprise at the munificence of £349k HLF grant for the restoration of the organ at St Michael's, Cornhill?

 

The announcement makes much of the historic provenance of the instrument - see Cornhill.

 

However, one would not have expected an organ which has been through quite so many transformations to meet the strict criteria normally set by the HLF. I can think of other - dare I say - more distinguished instruments of worthier pedigree which have failed to secure much smaller grants.

 

Although the HLF lays great importance on educational outreach - and what is proposed at St Michael's is doubtless commendable - one cannot help thinking such a sum would have gone a long way towards a new organ of real quality (such as that at St Giles, Cripplegate) which would have met those aims - and maybe also the musical needs of the church - more effectively.

 

JS

 

I'm delighted St Michael's has received this grant. It's an instrument which sounds glorious in this acoustic, and is part of a splendid tradition. The 1926 instrument would have been well known from Harold Darke's broadcasts, of course, and although not in the aesthetic of the new Oxford instrument mentioned above, will have a valid stylistic integrity of its own.

 

Making fundraising applications is quite an art, and best done by professionals - this is where many worthy projects fail. Bodies like the HLF have varying resources and priorities in different years, and also have to balance their awards - there is no 'absolute' standard. I would also suggest that an Oxford college (to respond again to the comparison made) has rather more resources/fundraising potential of its own at hand than a small City parish?

 

Why the sour grapes - can't we just be glad that this money is going to an organ project...?

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