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Organ Building Through The Credit Crunch


William
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Can organ building survive through this global financial trouble? will the order books tell the story? or will organ building be exempt from it all?..

 

Given that PCCs take at least a couple of years to make decisions and raise cash, I expect we'll be out of the woods by the time anyone feels the difference!

 

The busier firms will be best off, of course - the one or two I know of with 7 or 8 year order books - who are now benefitting from cheaper fuel and materials than they could have dreamed of when preparing the quotes a while back. But I expect the more hand-to-mouth tuning and maintenance guys whose work is more reactive in nature, and many of whom are nearing retirement, will probably throw in the towel - I would.

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When people are fearful for their jobs, they tend to put any spare cash into savings to see them through a possible jobless spell, so aren't as generous as they would otherwise be when it comes to the organ appeal. So there will inevitably be something of a slow down.

 

However, the state of the £ against the € is good news for British firms. It will effectively price builders based in the Euro zone out of work in the UK. And at the same time, British firms bidding for work on the continent will be able to come in with very competitive prices against the native builders.

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However, the state of the £ against the € is good news for British firms. It will effectively price builders based in the Euro zone out of work in the UK. And at the same time, British firms bidding for work on the continent will be able to come in with very competitive prices against the native builders.

 

Can anyone jog my memory about the last pound/foreign currency movement in the opposite direction. I seem to remember a high profile rebuild/new instrument where the tender came in a foreign currency and when the final bill needed paying it was considerably higher in pounds.

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Can anyone jog my memory about the last pound/foreign currency movement in the opposite direction. I seem to remember a high profile rebuild/new instrument where the tender came in a foreign currency and when the final bill needed paying it was considerably higher in pounds.

Was not this the case with the £ against the Danish Krone when Kingston-upon-Thames bought their Frobenius?

British style instruments are not frequently known abroad although some players like the music from the last 75 years or so. However, they are respected for their craftsmanship and lasting power. The problem with exporting is that we must also export the music to some degree with these instruments and in the UK there is no discernible school of organ composition. However, there are far more people abroad who thrive on our Baroque and slightly earlier music as it fits European organs particularly well. There is hardly a new instrument built in the UK that allows our greatest music to be played with a degree of authenticity - pitch, temperament, voicing, action, disposition and position. I find it utterly lamentable that teenage players and those slightly older have never played, let alone even heard the names of our composers of such glorious music. Do teachers make young people play Byrd, Purcell, Blow, James, Reading, Croft, Walond to name just the tip of our rich heritage? I still fondly remember the experience of playing one of the great Croft voluntaries in a concert where dear Ewald Kooiman was attending. He was 'blown away' by such music and found it incredulous that hardly another soul in the British room had played the music. Some said they knew an anthem or two which made the matter slightly worse I seem to recall. Who plays the John Stanley concertos for instance? Can anything from any country from that time be more delicious than the E Major from Opus 10? Where is there an organ for playing Byrd, Bull and the like - music offering enormous challenges? How many people have well-used volumes of the Fitzwilliam or other collections? The keyboard music of the 1st Elizabethan Age still far outshines the 2nd. Also in general Church Music too? When I see what has been springing up in different Euroland countries over the past 30 years, I can't quite see where a British example fits in except here as an instrument basically to accompany as its first priority. Those other countries put choirs second and if needed, provide a dedicated instrument for exactly that purpose. But of course there are the exquisite exceptions from small independently-minded builders. So the future does hold some hope and promise .......

So if I was buying a new organ for Europe from here, what would I be exactly buying into and for what purpose?

You get this from a snow-bound house this morning. Had there been none, you wouldn't have got it. So blame the weather if you find it too strong!

 

Nigel

 

 

N

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Where is there an organ for playing Byrd, Bull and the like - music offering enormous challenges? How many people have well-used volumes of the Fitzwilliam or other collections? The keyboard music of the 1st Elizabethan Age still far outshines the 2nd.

Fair comment. I think I probably have most of it. :)

 

Also in general Church Music too?

Indisputably (though someone will dispute it!) I know it is customary to see Byrd as Britain's greatest composer and I don't feel inclined to disagree, but I have recently been immersing myself in Gibbons (those wonderful recordings by the late lamented Clerkes of Oxenford) and I really do think he is the Tudor equivalent of Bach. Consummate technique and pefection of expression. Sheer bliss. His keyboard and consort music are no less rewarding.

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Given that PCCs take at least a couple of years to make decisions and raise cash, I expect we'll be out of the woods by the time anyone feels the difference!

 

The busier firms will be best off, of course - the one or two I know of with 7 or 8 year order books - who are now benefitting from cheaper fuel and materials than they could have dreamed of when preparing the quotes a while back. But I expect the more hand-to-mouth tuning and maintenance guys whose work is more reactive in nature, and many of whom are nearing retirement, will probably throw in the towel - I would.

But is there enough good organ tuners in the country to pick up the baton...Organs will still need maintained..

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Fair comment. I think I probably have most of it. :)

 

 

Indisputably (though someone will dispute it!) I know it is customary to see Byrd as Britain's greatest composer and I don't feel inclined to disagree, but I have recently been immersing myself in Gibbons (those wonderful recordings by the late lamented Clerkes of Oxenford) and I really do think he is the Tudor equivalent of Bach. Consummate technique and pefection of expression. Sheer bliss. His keyboard and consort music are no less rewarding.

 

I agree about Gibbons 'the Finger of the Age' as he was known. Never Unsurpassed for Amens!

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Back on the Credit Crunch topic - these people advertise in the current Organists' Review. I had heard about the 'Scandanavian' job with Collins pipes and large chunks of digital tonal resources from a certain US company but did not realise that they were breeding! Modern Pipe Organ Solutions is just slightly off beam as a company title maybe?

 

A

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"So if I was buying a new organ for Europe from here, what would I be exactly buying into and for what purpose?"

(Quote)

 

- For choral music ! there is nothing to beat a british romantic organ

for that purpose, and certainly not any french organ, which had never

to accompany the singers.

So any church in Europe with a good choir is a marketing target

for british builders.

 

-As for the "Repertoire": Howells (of course), Elgar, Guy Weitz (the Willis-addicted belgian

composer who lived in Britain), only to name the three who come first through my mind

 

-As for the "possible additionnal repertoire": Liszt, Dupré, Mendelssohn, Karg-Elert

(big output from this last one, and extremely good with it), another who sometimes

lived in Britain, all sound extremely well, I mean, they sounded very well on the

british organs I visited in the 1970's, crammed with closed toned reeds, leathered

Dipasons, Dulcianas & al.

 

-And Mr Allcoat is right: to forget the bristish baroque organ and its music would

be an huge mistake. If a 10-15 stops organ is to be built, then after this style !

it is big enough and does not need any independant Pedal - a competitive bonus

in the pseudo "neo-capitalist" economics of today-.

 

Pierre

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Back on the Credit Crunch topic - these people advertise in the current Organists' Review. I had heard about the 'Scandanavian' job with Collins pipes and large chunks of digital tonal resources from a certain US company but did not realise that they were breeding! Modern Pipe Organ Solutions is just slightly off beam as a company title maybe?

 

A

 

I visited a church that wishes to purchase a hybrid organ such as you describe. They had one on loan from a Cathedral I think, so that they could test the waters with the congregation. I have no idea who created the pipe part but I am sure that the digital expansion was from America. I had never encountered such a full-blown marriage before - only the occasional pipe organ with pedal additions. The pipe part went up to Mixture but not using an 8ft Principal; that was digital. Therefore a blockwerk was almost created. But unless speakers were going to be close by to the pipes, I fear a strangeness of sound under some acoustical situations - certainly in the dryer. When playing loudly, I lost all sound or impact from the pipes, which made me think that a totally digital device would have done just as well in making sound. The little case of pipes (very similar to the picture in the above link) would have made a nice little mechanical actioned organ with some more design. There was an 8ft Flute I think, too. I am hopeful to see/play other such instruments so that I can make a better and lasting judgment - especially those that have been completed for specific places and voiced for them. My first impression though was one of

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- especially those that have been completed for specific places and voiced for them. My first impression though was one of

 

Intrigued? I'll say.

 

Choose your ending, readers -

 

1) At this point, Mr Allcoat went to the smallest room in the house, the better to concoct a sentence which would accurately convey his true meaning and enable him to put all this behind him.

 

or

 

2) At this point, Mr Allcoat was captured and taken away for an undefined period of mental re-adjustment at the top-secret Courtefontaine institution, Experimentes Sans Frontiers (with extremely mechant chien thrown in, literally).

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Intrigued? I'll say.

 

Choose your ending, readers -

 

1) At this point, Mr Allcoat went to the smallest room in the house, the better to concoct a sentence which would accurately convey his true meaning and enable this to put it all behind him.

 

or

 

2) At this point, Mr Allcoat was captured and taken away for an undefined period of mental re-adjustment at the top-secret Courtefontaine institution, Experimentes Sans Frontiers (with extremely mechant chien thrown in, literally).

 

 

Or maybe he was transported into the 'Hinckley Triangle' by a sinister organization whose aim it is to install hybrid cyber organs in every church in the UK. The BBC are seriously interested in this for the Easter Saturday Dr Who episode - it will include a special Songs of Praise where the organ will be played by a Dalek.

 

A :rolleyes:

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a special Songs of Praise where the organ will be played by a Dalek.

 

Funny thing, but a particular cathedral sprang to mind the instant I read that. No matter. Your link to Mpos made me notice, not for the first time, that an awful, awful lot of people out there "trained with J.W.Walker." Aside from the consideration of what that might actually mean in itself, it would seem to make it very difficult to run a large firm in a stable manner - investing all that time and energy in training people, then having to lay them off, only for them to go and start up themselves in competition. That must make working through financial troubles quite tough in a way much less visible and twice as damaging as the lack of capital. Additionally, one supposes, "trained with" can mean a whole raft of things. Does it mean two years on the bench leathering stoppers and racking in? Does it mean two years assembling pre-bought components? Or does it actually mean serious time becoming a master of all aspects of an incredibly varied craft, which makes quite extraordinary demands as a salesman, administrator, draughtsman, designer, canny buyer, woodworker, metalworker, civil engineer, mechanical engineer, architect, visual, tactile and aural aesthete, and the toughest quality control freak ever - just to name the first dozen or so skills in the process of making an organ I could come up with?

 

If the former, then we are forced to the conclusion that an awful lot of people might not know quite what they're doing. If the latter, then we're still in big trouble in 50 years if the 'big firms' of today aren't able to retain people now, possibly for financial reasons, and the small firms which are making a big name for themselves on quality lose (through retirement) the driving force which made them succesful in the first place. Eek.

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Back on the Credit Crunch topic - these people advertise in the current Organists' Review. I had heard about the 'Scandanavian' job with Collins pipes and large chunks of digital tonal resources from a certain US company but did not realise that they were breeding! Modern Pipe Organ Solutions is just slightly off beam as a company title maybe?

 

A

 

Hi

 

Interesting that Peter collins is involved - but perhaps not so surprising considering the hybrid organ he was invovled with building a few years ago.

 

I'm pretty sure the digital side is Rogers - sourced, but that may have changed since "organs" using this namke were introduced by them.

 

It's not actually a new concept - Compton built a hybrid organ in the '30's or '40's, and a Midland firm used to build hybrid jobs under the Gregorian Organ" name - in both cases there was one virtually pipe-only manual and the rest was electronic.

 

The ony sizeable hybrid I've seen & played is the rebuild at Addingham Parish Church, where a typical early 1900's-style pipe organ has been rebuilt with electric action andsignificant digital additions, using the latest Bradford system (not surprising since Peter Comerford is one of the organists at the church). It has potential, and it's not easy on a quick listen to identify SOME of the digitasl stops, but on longer exposure it becomes clearer.

 

The idea has some potential - but IMHO ONLY where thereis insuficient space for an adequate pipe organ - and that's pretty rare. There is also the issue of what happens in around 20 years time when the electronics fail, but the pipes are still good for another 80+ years or more.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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There is also the issue of what happens in around 20 years time when the electronics fail, but the pipes are still good for another 80+ years or more.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

 

.......they chuck the whole lot out and replace it with a little box which plays hymns on its own, of course!

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Can organ building survive through this global financial trouble? will the order books tell the story? or will organ building be exempt from it all?..

 

 

I personally feel most reassured by the credit crunch. It means there wont be as much money around to do as much damage.

 

:unsure:

 

R

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At least !?

 

Welcome to the club, then. As Belgium already bankrupted since years ago,

we have learn to make do with cleaning, repair, and maintain, without any

attempt to "better" our organs any more.

And here as everywhere else, the most interesting areas as far as organs

are concerned are the poorest ones. Guess why ?

 

Pierre

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This was an exceptionally interesting posting from Nigel, I've been meaning to respond for 2 days but haven't had time until now.

 

"British style instruments are not frequently known abroad although some players like the music from the last 75 years or so. However, they are respected for their craftsmanship and lasting power. The problem with exporting is that we must also export the music to some degree with these instruments and in the UK there is no discernible school of organ composition."

 

In Holland there are many late 19th and early 20th century English organs, and the associated music is catching on. Many British organists seem to play their own literature from this time with a certain sense of apology, but if you compare it with Dutch organ music from the same period (heard quite often here, there are many organs on which it sounds well) you have much to be proud of - in NL the quality and imagination of a Whitlock (especially the Sonata) or a Willan is unthinkable.

 

"However, there are far more people abroad who thrive on our Baroque and slightly earlier music as it fits European organs particularly well. There is hardly a new instrument built in the UK that allows our greatest music to be played with a degree of authenticity - pitch, temperament, voicing, action, disposition and position. I find it utterly lamentable that teenage players and those slightly older have never played, let alone even heard the names of our composers of such glorious music. Do teachers make young people play Byrd, Purcell, Blow, James, Reading, Croft, Walond to name just the tip of our rich heritage? I still fondly remember the experience of playing one of the great Croft voluntaries in a concert where dear Ewald Kooiman was attending. He was 'blown away' by such music and found it incredulous that hardly another soul in the British room had played the music."

 

This illustrates a broader point about the way in which the early music movement developed in Dutch Conservatories (among others) as opposed to in the UK. The Godfather was, and is Gustav Leonhardt - he started teaching the repertoire Nigel mentions at the Haarlem Summer Academy already in the (early?) 1960s - he was the only one who had access to a copy of Musica Brittanica! Far beyond the organ though, Leonhardt and others taught a whole second generation of 'early' musicians who distilled and matured the early ideas, and who are now passing them on to a third generation, who are doing the same. The result is that the early music making heard in the corridors of the conservatories of Amsterdam or The Hague is very different to what was heard 40 years ago. The effect is highly international, yesterday I was organising a concert to be performed by a French harpsichordist, a Mexican Gamba player and 2 Australian singers, all of whom study, or have studied in Holland. Much like the organ reform movement, the period performance movement never really got beyond the ideals of the early pioneers in the UK with their strict hierarchies of music, organ types etc. This is why the organists don't study the most important British literature, and why the conservatories have never invested in an instrument to study it on.

 

Isn't the same true of English organ music immediately prior to Mendelssohn's arrival? There is supposed to be some fascinating music rendered inaccessible by the required G-compasses. In this case the organs are there but either unplayable (Thaxted) or inaccessible (Buckingham Palace)...

 

 

"When I see what has been springing up in different Euroland countries over the past 30 years, I can't quite see where a British example fits in except here as an instrument basically to accompany as its first priority. Those other countries put choirs second and if needed, provide a dedicated instrument for exactly that purpose."

 

Its important to point out that the majority of liturgical choral singing in Euroland is truly dreadful, (Scandinavia is a glorious exception and of course there are bits of Germany where its still done well). Britain has preserved its great choral treasure uniquely well. The idea that organs are now built in Britain with liturgical accompaniment as the main priority is not really true any more. Glance at the stoplists for Southwell, Llandaff, or even the 'orgue de choeur' at Worcester and compare them with Truro (not a stop wasted....)

 

Greetings

 

Bazuin

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Far beyond the organ though, Leonhardt and others taught a whole second generation of 'early' musicians who distilled and matured the early ideas, and who are now passing them on to a third generation, who are doing the same. The result is that the early music making heard in the corridors of the conservatories of Amsterdam or The Hague is very different to what was heard 40 years ago. The effect is highly international, yesterday I was organising a concert to be performed by a French harpsichordist, a Mexican Gamba player and 2 Australian singers, all of whom study, or have studied in Holland.

But surely much the same could be said of the London conservatoires? Nowadays the RCM, RAM and Trinity (at least) all have a historical performance or early music faculty, none of which existed back in the 60s, and many of our professional practitioners in this field are conservatoire trained. Early music performance here too bears little resemblance to what was going on when Leonhardt and Harnoncourt were young. But it certainly does seem that the majority of British organists have remained largely immune to all this. They are too addicted to their full swells and Open Woods - and to latter day French music.

 

Isn't the same true of English organ music immediately prior to Mendelssohn's arrival? There is supposed to be some fascinating music rendered inaccessible by the required G-compasses.

There is. I don't claim to be an expert on this period, but, like many here I am sure, I have encountered a fair sample of composers from the English Baroque (which essentially includes the classical period as well since the style didn't change that much) and on the whole their music does tend to be rather slight stuff compared with Bach and Mendelssohn. Purcell, Blow and Locke have more meat than most, but I think anyone would be pushed to listen to Walond, Reading, Bennet, Travers, Russell, Linley and the like in large doses. The English organ fugue of this period is a truly wretch thing hardly worthy of the name. From the music I have seen, you can usually get around the problem of the G compass either by a discreet use of the pedal for odd notes, or by transposing the unavailable notes up and octave. A rather unsatisfactory compromise, to be sure, but not usually a fatal one.

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