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saundersbp

Leeds Cathedral

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Attacks ad hominem, not ad nomine.

 

To be honest, a difficult or clueless client can be just as much a hindrance to an organ project as an organ consultant. They can be just as much to blame for a bad project. There are one or two very good consultants out there (who can also help sort out difficult clients for the builder) but there are some consultants who bring questionable benefit to a project. A good client or consultant will develop the environment and inspiration for the builder to create the best organ they possibly can. And that certainly will not stem from micro-management and having unrealistic ideas of the parties' knowledge or abilities.

 

The organ building craft today is far smaller in the UK than it was in the 19th Century. In Victorian times nearly all major builders were turning out organs by the dozen each year and made all their major components, like pipes, soundboards and actions, in-house. So they had a huge opportunity to develop their ideas and skills. It would only be in the third and fourth rank builders where firms would rely on trade suppliers for pipes, soundboards, etc. This is not the case today, where new organs are built less frequently and there is more widespread use of trade suppliers, like P&S, even by some well-respected names in high-profile contracts. This isn't unique to the UK - it's just as common on the continent and USA.

 

I think there's an element of the rhetorical about David Wyld's question but I too am a bit puzzled why Klais have been given the project to add a sanctuary section to an organ. Their style works best in large, continental basilicas and modern concert halls. The effect in more delicate surroundings can be distinctly harsh and unlovely. I'm puzzled why they were even considered to build a somewhat unheroic chancel section for what I assume is for choral accompaniment purposes. Maybe Benjamin can elucidate?

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"But is it something to write on a public place about a living builder ?"

 

But my criticism is of his philosophy and the resulting organs, not a personal criticism of the man himself. Even I have to admire his ability to win contracts and keep the Klais brand as successful as he has, even though I don't like the organs, or the rationale behind them. Public Criticism, even subjective criticism, is surely healthy, and is normal in the discussion of any other 'product' or indeed art form. I could (perhaps wish I did) have written this. But someone far greater than I did. And published it on an internet forum:

 

http://listserv.albany.edu:8080/cgi-bin/wa...=R3894&I=-3

 

 

"There are one or two very good consultants out there (who can also help sort out difficult clients for the builder); there are some consultants whose benefit to a project is questionable."

 

Unfortunately almost no-one in the UK could match the author of the above, as you, and DW, and our hosts know from personal experience.

 

"...and made all their major components, like pipes, soundboards and actions, of their organs in-house. It would only be in the third and fourth rank builders where firms would rely on trade suppliers for pipes, soundboards, etc. This is not the case today, where new organs are built less frequently and there is more widespread use of trade suppliers, like P&S, even by some well-respected names. This isn't unique to the UK - it's just as common on the continent and USA."

 

Sure. But the fact of the best builders making everything bar the blower and the console gadgetry in house, and the rest buying in pipes, actions, cases, you name it, is as true today as it was then, even if far fewer organs are being commissioned. In fact you could perhaps say it is the most telling difference between the best and the rest. Consider this list:

 

Flentrop (NL), Van Eeken (NL), Verschueren (NL), Kögler (Austria), Porthan (Finland), Quoirin (FR), Ahrend (D), Fritts (USA), Pasi (USA), Richards Fowkes (USA)

 

...to name just 10. Can you think of an organ builder anywhere, building at anything like the level of these guys and subcontracting any significant part of the organ?

 

Bazuin

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It is saddens me to see the culmination of many years of effort being written off with a few glib remarks casually tossed around which display a surprising degree of ignorance about the organ builders mentioned.

 

A simple example would be the poor vexed soul worried that Klais had “no experience whatever” with N&B organs. It may be helpful to look up the firm used on recent N&B projects, try Auckland Town Hall for example.

 

Neither firm was chosen on the basis of cheapness, or because anyone was intoxicated by a brilliant PR machine, or because the client (me!) or consultants were clueless. It was based on a thorough and critical evaluation by an array of serious, thoughtful, conscientious and experienced individuals over a substantial period of time.

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With regard to the organs of Klais, no-one seems to have mentioned the Symphony Hall in Birmingham (although it is mentioned in Stephen Bicknell's article). Having heard it myself, I can agree with others who have said how impressed they were by it. Certainly, I think it is much more successful than the Marcussen in the Bridgewater Hall not a million miles from where I live.

 

Having heard a recital last year in Cologne Cathedral, I personally like the Klais style. As suggested by others, it seems to work well in large buildings. I cannot comment on its suitability in small venues, though.

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This is a very interesting point but might I add a few observations? Last year I had the privilege of working with Rieger Orgelbau, Austria and I was absolutely breath taken by their approach to their work. They build between five to eight NEW organs every year and probably have an order book for the next four years. When I was there I worked on the organ for Kaarst – a three manual organ. The training they gave was very good and their approach was totally very different to anything I had experienced in the UK. I thought - how do they get their contracts? Well for me it’s certainly something to do with PR, how else would they do it? They market themselves brilliantly and seem to get good results, by doing what the customer actually wants rather then what they think the customer should have. I did have a few issues with the materials they were using but essentially they were getting the work in - and new work at that.

 

Now with regard to Leeds Cathedral. I have no doubt that they have thought long and hard about this and probably in the same way as the organ for the RCO was thought of. I remember one UK company just simply winging that they didn’t get a proper look in with the RCO project and all they did was do submit ‘Specification A’. Well if that’s all they did then no wonder the job was awarded to someone else with more imagination. And isn’t it surprising they are the first people to complain? I’m not sure if this has happened at Leeds. It certainly hasn’t happened at Worcester, Llandaff and St. Ed’s Cathedral. But for me there seems to be a defensive and lazy approach from some UK builders (and some are pricing themselves out of the market) and this is why I think some contracts go abroad.

 

When I was organ scholar at the Symphony Hall, Birmingham from 2005-6 I met some of the Klais guy’s. I asked one of them about contracts going abroad and he said that they experience the same political sagas too – why go somewhere else if we can build it ourselves?

 

I hope the Leeds job goes well and I guess it would be interesting for Klais to have a go at doing something like this. I don’t think it will be another Bath Abbey of Symphony Hall and looking at the pictures it seems they have learnt something from us, but I do feel we need to learn a lot from the continent builders as well.

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It is saddens me to see the culmination of many years of effort being written off with a few glib remarks casually tossed around which display a surprising degree of ignorance about the organ builders mentioned.

 

A simple example would be the poor vexed soul worried that Klais had “no experience whatever” with N&B organs. It may be helpful to look up the firm used on recent N&B projects, try Auckland Town Hall for example.

 

Neither firm was chosen on the basis of cheapness, or because anyone was intoxicated by a brilliant PR machine, or because the client (me!) or consultants were clueless. It was based on a thorough and critical evaluation by an array of serious, thoughtful, conscientious and experienced individuals over a substantial period of time.

 

This just about sums up my view of this line of discussion - one can almost predict what will be forthcoming when certain non UK builders figure in work over here. Granted - personal experience has shown me that there have been some odd choices involving a seeming 'low cost - flashy exterior - but less than good pipework/mechanism' scenario from smaller non UK builders (and for that matter smaller UK builders). One must, however give those such as Benjamin Saunders (Leeds), the authorities at Farnborough Abbey, Peter King (Bath) or those responsible for the recent work by Kern on a vintage H & H. together with musicians at places such as Marlborough and Tonbridge credit for the same depth of planning and consideration as those at Worcester, Glenalmond. and St Giles Cripplegate. I hasten to add that I have heard 'live' and played the instruments at Bath, Marlborough and Farnborough but am taking the others on trust having known the work and reputation of their builders for many years!

 

A

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It is saddens me to see the culmination of many years of effort being written off with a few glib remarks casually tossed around which display a surprising degree of ignorance about the organ builders mentioned.

 

A simple example would be the poor vexed soul worried that Klais had “no experience whatever” with N&B organs. It may be helpful to look up the firm used on recent N&B projects, try Auckland Town Hall for example.

 

Neither firm was chosen on the basis of cheapness, or because anyone was intoxicated by a brilliant PR machine, or because the client (me!) or consultants were clueless. It was based on a thorough and critical evaluation by an array of serious, thoughtful, conscientious and experienced individuals over a substantial period of time.

 

I don't believe that your work is being written off at all - this sort of discussion always occurs when there is what may be seen as a controversial decision made and I'm sure that you might have expected it.

 

Auckland Town Hall is not a good demonstration I'm afraid: that instrument was de-N&Bd in the last efforts made there, little of the original organ survived unmolested. In the present work, there will be little remaining of the Norman & Beard stuff at all- this is basically a new organ. Time will tell.

 

As I said earlier, we entered a proposal (by invitation) with Stephen Bicknell some years before Mr. Saunders arrived: this is a very difficult building and mercifully someone else will deal with it.

 

I'm sure that the organ certainly will be "critically evaluated" by all of the usual critics when it's installed!

 

DW

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I would be stunned if a serious professional organ builder would persistently vent their irritation, on a lack of success in winning high profile contracts on a public forum. They do not do so because important new potential clients would be completely put off by such uncontrolled and amateurish remarks.

 

The organ builders that I know have pets and talk instead to them (rather than the internet) about their disappointments.

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I would be stunned if a serious professional organ builder would persistently vent their irritation, on a lack of success in winning high profile contracts on a public forum. They do not do so because important new potential clients would be completely put off by such uncontrolled and amateurish remarks.

 

The organ builders that I know have pets and talk instead to them (rather than the internet) about their disappointments.

 

This is precisely why this sort of 'discussion' is dangerous - the misinterpretation made possible by words on a screen instead of spoken makes it difficult to express any opinion or to ask a simple question.

 

I say 'discussion' in inverted commas as often there is no possibility of discussion: every word said is interpreted as criticism. My initial question was quite simple - Why Klais? I was interested to know.

 

There is no question of organbuilders' disappointment in my comments I assure you: our 'New' work is all outside the UK at the moment and therefore we could face the same sort and level of comment as that above.

 

I apologize to Mr. Saunders if he has interpreted MY comments as anything other than observation - they are certainly not griping. Leeds Cathedral IS a difficult situation and I genuinely hope that the solution is given by the current project.

 

DW

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"A simple example would be the poor vexed soul worried that Klais had “no experience whatever” with N&B organs. It may be helpful to look up the firm used on recent N&B projects, try Auckland Town Hall for example."

 

I apologise for missing the Auckland example but stand by the broader point, which is roughly similar to that of DW's. Klais is a curious choice for such a project and many of us (for different reasons, I have no professional axe to grind whatever!) would be very interested were you to expand on your 'thorough and critical evaluation' for the benefit of those whose comments from the outside looking in may otherwise be seen as glib. You were obviously impressed by what you saw in Auckland, tell us something about it! Why is it so impressive? Is the Norman and Beard aesthetic preserved, or re-created or is it, as DW suggests a new Klais organ?

 

"Neither firm was chosen on the basis of cheapness, or because anyone was intoxicated by a brilliant PR machine, or because the client (me!) or consultants were clueless."

 

Regarding the latter, I would not suggest such a thing. If cost had nothing to do with the scenario, please tell us why Skrabl impressed you so much? Aesthetically they are building in a neo-classical style reminiscent (sometimes even visually) of the German speaking world of the middle 1970s, for example with ultra-steady winding. Again, the choice is curious, please tell us more! Given that Skrabl make such a feature of their low prices in their own PR, you have to concede that the suggestion is bound to be made!

 

I for one am generally interested to hear about why these builders were chosen. Share some of your enthusiasm with us! No-one here (I hope) wishes your projects anything but success.

 

 

Bazuin

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If you ask them, Klais would certainly build something like this:

 

http://www.klais.de/m.php?tx=70

 

(I would!!!)

 

More here about this organ (in german, but with some pictures):

 

http://www.st-elisabeth-bonn.de/t3v415/index.php?id=75

 

The Fernwerk was installed by Klais in 1989, since WWI blocked the fundings,

and the Orgelbewegung forbidded such things afterwards....

 

So, 1989, this Fernwerk was added. Then, an electronic combinator (Setzer)

was asked for.

Klais installed it with an interface to the original, preserved pneumatic action.

 

Needless to say, if I dare present it here, it is because I was convinced, in Situ,

with the tone !

This is one of my preffered late romantic (to the verge of post-romantism) german organs,

with some by Oscar Walcker and the Link organs in Giegen and Andernach (near Koblenz).

 

A builder capable of restoring such a thing like that demonstrates two things:

 

1)- The founder's tradition is still alive (as S. Bicknell wrote too);

 

2)- He is a good builder !

 

So it is up to the customer to decide what he wants. If the customer wants

an ecclectic organ, Klais will do it. Ask them for something else. Once!

 

Pierre

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(in anger) Why is Klais a curious choice for such a project? The fact is they were better at pitching their product then any UK builder - when will the Brits stop being dogmatic?

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Oh Dear! I feel this debate is getting a bit too heated and emotions are beginning to show. I think a bit more respect and a little less emotion needs to be shown in some of the response above (including mine).

 

I'm certain Leeds Cathedral have spent a good deal of time and effort selecting a builder. A project like this is going to be in the region of hundreds of thousands of pounds. Nobody today is going to select a builder casually for this sort of money, least of all a Cathedral. I'm sure Benjamin Saunders and the Cathedral have spent a lot of time selecting builders for consideration, inspecting examples of each builders' work and forming relationships to finally select the builder that's right for them. It's a protracted business and many things influence the final decision. I'm sure they've done a very conscientious job and are well justified in their choice of builder.

 

I'm sure everyone here respects Leeds Cathedral's decision and wishes them well for a successful and happy project. I'm sure no-one here wants to hinder the project in any way - in fact, I'm sure we all want to give Ben, Klais and his project our full support.

 

I think every project gets the question "why are you using so-and-so as organ builder?" I got asked that question several times. Sometimes it was irritating, especially from people who really knew very little about the project and the builders. I think Henry Willis's and Bazuin's question and their considerable experience should be respected, even if people here don't like the question. I don't sense a lack of respect or jealousy from either Bazuin or HW - in fact, they've been very deferential. So please let's avoid ad hominem attacks on them that subvert answering the question. Of course, no-one has to answer their question but let's try to avoid branding them dogmatic, glib and ignorant.

 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ad_hominem

 

Ben - I apologize if you misread my last message as implying you and Leeds Cathedral were "clueless". I really didn't mean to - I was thinking of some less happy projects where the client had micro-managed the builder against their better judgement. I've never met you and know next to nothing about the project at Leeds - so who am I to speak about it?

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Oh Dear! I feel this debate is getting a bit too heated and emotions are beginning to show. I think a bit more respect and a little less emotion needs to be shown in some of the response above (including mine)....

 

I'm sure everyone here respects Leeds Cathedral's decision and wishes them well for a successful and happy project. I'm sure no-one here wants to hinder the project in any way - in fact, I'm sure we all want to give Ben, Klais and his project our full support. ...

 

Ben - I apologize if you misread my last message as implying you and Leeds Cathedral were "clueless". I really didn't mean to - I was thinking of some less happy projects where the client had micro-managed the builder against their better judgement. I've never met you and know next to nothing about the project at Leeds - so who am I to speak about it?

 

Yes quite right - I look forward to Leeds progress.

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I'm sure Benjamin Saunders and the Cathedral have spent a lot of time selecting builders for consideration, inspecting examples of each builders' work and forming relationships to finally select the builder that's right for them. It's a protracted business and many things influence the final decision. I'm sure they've done a very conscientious job and are well justified in their choice of builder.

I have never commissioned an organ, but prior to retirement I was responsible for some very large projects using public funds. I think Colin has hit the nail on the head here; the relationship with the contractor is the most important factor - more important even than cost. To be able to work with someone over a period of months it is important that each party trusts the other's judgment and that they share common objectives. I always preferred the contractor who took the trouble to listen to me, understand my requirements and share my enthusiasm for the project, rather than one who just wished to make his life easy and offer a standard solution.

JC

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Guest Roffensis

One concern I have with Continental builders is how they will match existing pipework, if any is kept, and whether they will respect what is kept. If they start revoicing, then the lot may as well be binned, and start afresh. This also has to balanced against the decision what to keep, or why not to keep it.

 

Fashion still rules, and often whim. Organs can be written off in a consultants single paragraph as suddenly unfit for their purpose. Such organs were probably hailed 30 years ago previously as the best thing since slived bread. Here we see the fashion pendulem swinging.

 

Where an organ is original, or restorable to that state, then I believe very serious consideration ought to be given to this. If we give out contracts to Foreign builders, then we are saying that we do not consider British builders can deal with a particular organ. This is wrong and misplaced.

 

Edited by moderator, to remove inaccuracies.

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Please can we be careful when writing in these terms. It's easy to border on xenophobia, whether wittingly or not. To think that some of the foremost builders in the world are not capable of working at the highest level is frankly insulting. It would not surprise me to think that authors in others countries could say the same thing about British builders working in their country, which I am sure we collectively, and our native builders would regard as insulting. One should look at the quality of the work of the firms, and understand their working practices before commenting. The best way to do this is to observe their work with a critical eye and ear, bearing in mind what constraints were placed upon them, and to talk to the people concerned. One can get somewhat nearer a balanced judgement then. A good firm can do good work wherever, but at least at the outset, only the firm, the customer and the consultant if employed will know the absolute nature of the position and requirements.

 

AJS

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Please can we be careful when writing in these terms. It's easy to border on xenophobia, whether wittingly or not. To think that some of the foremost builders in the world are not capable of working at the highest level is frankly insulting. It would not surprise me to think that authors in others countries could say the same thing about British builders working in their country, which I am sure we collectively, and our native builders would regard as insulting. One should look at the quality of the work of the firms, and understand their working practices before commenting. The best way to do this is to observe their work with a critical eye and ear, bearing in mind what constraints were placed upon them, and to talk to the people concerned. One can get somewhat nearer a balanced judgement then. A good firm can do good work wherever, but at least at the outset, only the firm, the customer and the consultant if employed will know the absolute nature of the position and requirements.

 

AJS

 

Hear, hear! Having been away from it for nearly a year now, I miss the Klais Organ in Bath Abbey very much and feel (as I did when working there) that in the end an organ's provenance doesn't matter in the slightest, as long as it turns out to be right for the building. Visiting recitalists and choirs, especially those of high calibre, never failed to be impressed by it. I have no doubt that the same will be true at Leeds when the current project is completed and I am certain that Ben Saunders will be delighted with the choice he and his team made - as will the Choirs, congregations and visitors to Leeds Cathedral for years to come!

 

Incidentally, whilst the Bath organ had many new registers constructed, what a lot of people tend to overlook (or miss when reading the literature available) is that a lot of pipework was retained from the old Hill organ. In some cases it was revoiced, so as to match the aesthetic of the whole, but in other cases it was left untouched (e.g. Great Small Open Diapason, transferred onto the Swell; Solo Clarinet left exactly as it had been constructed in the C19th) ... so to anyone worrying about whether or not a foreign builder will respect the heritage of an English instrument entrusted to them, I would say "Klais do!" They certainly did at Bath, and they will do again at Leeds.

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Please can we be careful when writing in these terms. It's easy to border on xenophobia, whether wittingly or not. To think that some of the foremost builders in the world are not capable of working at the highest level is frankly insulting. It would not surprise me to think that authors in others countries could say the same thing about British builders working in their country, which I am sure we collectively, and our native builders would regard as insulting. One should look at the quality of the work of the firms, and understand their working practices before commenting. The best way to do this is to observe their work with a critical eye and ear, bearing in mind what constraints were placed upon them, and to talk to the people concerned. One can get somewhat nearer a balanced judgement then. A good firm can do good work wherever, but at least at the outset, only the firm, the customer and the consultant if employed will know the absolute nature of the position and requirements.

 

AJS

 

 

An interesting question perhaps: how often are new organs built by firms from outside the country to which the organ is being delivered, compared to existing organs being restored or altered by firms outside the country the organ is located? I'd have thought it would be much more common for new organs to be built by foriegn builders, then later amended by local builders.

 

For instance we have many wonderful examples of Mander's work being exported to the USA, Japan and elsewhere, but I wonder how many rebuilds are undertaken by British firms outside of the UK (the Harrison restoration at Stockholm being a recent example)? Just as the number of times that European firms rebuild or restore, as opposed to newly construct, organs in Britain would seem to be small in comparison. Is it because the cost, or the prestige of a new instrument is greater than that of a rebuild? Perhaps firms that undertake rebuilds are better known for their rebuilds in the country where they are based? Or they have a better understanding of how to rebuild effectively? Just curious...

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