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Royal Academy Of Music


Colin Richell
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In tonight's Evening Standard I read that Elton John is playing a concert to raise funds for the Royal Academy Of Music's organ which needs £1.2 million pounds.

Perhaps I should be delighted, having spent many years unsuccesfully raising funds for another organ, but we were never fortunate enough to obtain that kind of support.

I am sure that many contributors to the Mander web site. will themselves have been involved with fund raising, but also were not fortunate enough to secure such noble financial support.

Perhaps the word "Royal" tickled the fancy of Elton.

The article talks about a new instrument, but I assume that the existing one is being refurbished,

Does anyone know which organ builder has been nominated to undertake the work, and what work is being carried out ?

The concert was held at The Albert Hall, and I wonder whether the organ was featured ?

Colin Richell

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It could be a Kuhn, a Mathis, a Felsberg or a Hauser, but I think I know what it will be, a I'll be very happy to listen to it.

 

AJS

 

......or a Spaeth or a St Martin.....

 

but a glance at teh RAM website reveals it will be built by Kuhn

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Well, logically, that would also prevent English builders from exporting, there being competent organbuilders in most of the countries of the world where organs are commissioned.

 

I hope you don't drive a French or a German or an American car, or use a Chinese-built PC to browse the Mander forum (itself hosted on servers most likely designed in the US and manufactured in the far east)?

 

IMO, it's up to the customer to decide what he wants and choose the supplier he thinks best able to provide it for the money he's got.

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OK, at the risk of being deliberately provocative, I'm going to suggest that the 4 broad areas for giving a firm a job are sound, money, friends and nods and 'salesmanship'. At this level I'm not including quality of workmanship because that should be a given. Money here is clearly not a primary issue. As far as connections go, only the people involved know whether they have them or not, so we're down to talking about sound.

 

This is where in the context of this forum I get particularly provocative. Where is there a British builder who can, in their recent repertoire, demonstrate an organ with the sound of a typical modern Kuhn instrument, assuming that that is the sound which the RAM have asked for. There is a trade off in some customer's minds for the direction in which British organ building is currently going, and this may be an example of it.

 

If there's a general collective direction and production of Hillocks and Willisons, you'll entertain the possibility of going elsewhere if that's not what you want.

 

AJS

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OK, at the risk of being deliberately provocative, I'm going to suggest that the 4 broad areas for giving a firm a job are sound, money, friends and nods and 'salesmanship'. At this level I'm not including quality of workmanship because that should be a given. Money here is clearly not a primary issue. As far as connections go, only the people involved know whether they have them or not, so we're down to talking about sound.

 

This is where in the context of this forum I get particularly provocative. Where is there a British builder who can, in their recent repertoire, demonstrate an organ with the sound of a typical modern Kuhn instrument, assuming that that is the sound which the RAM have asked for. There is a trade off in some customer's minds for the direction in which British organ building is currently going, and this may be an example of it.

 

If there's a general collective direction and production of Hillocks and Willisons, you'll entertain the possibility of going elsewhere if that's not what you want.

 

AJS

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So the RAM does not consider that an English organ builder is competent to build a new organ ?

Disgraceful and disloyal in my opinion.

Colin Richell.

 

I have written on this sort of topic on a number of occasions. I, too, think that there are far too many new commissions being awarded to foreign builders; so much so that it has become fashionable. When I raised this subject several years ago with an eminent world-class organist (sorry to repeat the point) I was told that it was all to do with repertoire. I did not get the opportunity to challenge this reply. Surely, if a new organ is to be built, particularly in a concert hall or, in this case, the RAM., it is not outside the capabilities of a BRITISH ORGAN BUILDER, to come up with the goods and build an instrument capable of covering all types of repertoire.

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Just out of interest, can anyone who has actually played the existing Van den Heuvel instrument state what is wrong with it, or hazard a guess as to why a fairly high-profile - and not very old - organ is to be replaced completely?

From a downunders point of view, why DO the English seem to seek so many 'European' instruments (being politically correct there)? In Australia we have few really good builders and enjoy UK offcasts - I have a 1922, 3 manual Willis and an 1845 single manual Bevington in my church - incidentally installed by UK builders. Beautiful and much admired instruments. Some UK (church organ) specifications - gleaned from magazines and the like - seem to be far removed from being good for much more than providing for performance of a limited repertoire. And then - and we are getting this here now too - it seems that if pipes are too expensive we compromise the integrityof the pipe organ by greedily adding digital stops.

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"Just out of interest, can anyone who has actually played the existing Van den Heuvel instrument state what is wrong with it, or hazard a guess as to why a fairly high-profile - and not very old - organ is to be replaced completely?"

 

Because it was built by VDH. There was a report on a Dutch organ website about 4 years ago that the front pipes were collapsing - I think Flentrop had to go in and make it safe.

 

"I have written on this sort of topic on a number of occasions. I, too, think that there are far too many new commissions being awarded to foreign builders; so much so that it has become fashionable. When I raised this subject several years ago with an eminent world-class organist (sorry to repeat the point) I was told that it was all to do with repertoire. I did not get the opportunity to challenge this reply. Surely, if a new organ is to be built, particularly in a concert hall or, in this case, the RAM., it is not outside the capabilities of a BRITISH ORGAN BUILDER, to come up with the goods and build an instrument capable of covering all types of repertoire."

 

This is a crazy muddled-headed situation I think - the RAM purchased an organ from VDH to be able to teach properly a single area of the repertoire. Unfortunately, they bought it from VDH and not from Verschueren (for example) who, of course, could have done it much better. But to replace the organ with a new Central-European 'eclectic' factory organ upon which none of the repertoire can be taught in a contextual way (in a sense duplicating their teaching instrument at St Marylebone) is, in my opinion, pretty backward. The crazy thing is that the best British builders CAN do this kind of organ as well as a Kuhn, Rieger, Klais (take your pick...). To counter Barry Oakley's point, it has been fashionable to import from abroad since the 1960s - this is a long lasting fashion. The new Koegler in Glasgow, or Richards/Fowkes in London will be organs of a higher level than the UK can provide. I don't feel the same way about Kuhn.

 

Bazuin

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Interestingly (and slightly off topic - apologies), a number of albeit smaller English organs are steadily finding their way abroad. Orgelbau Oppel, for example, is just one firm which snaps up suitable Romantic English organs when they become available, to restore and sell on as viable alternatives to digital organs. Stephan Oppel has just bought and collected my little house organ and was on his way to collect another Victorian instrument from a church in Flixton. Stephan and his colleagues drooled and gasped when I showed them the 3-manual 1907 Hill organ currently rotting, unused, in St Mark's Kingsholm, Gloucester and would have paid good money to take it away.

 

If the RAM want a quality instrument, with real pedigree, that actually supports a substantial chunk of the repertoire, perhaps they might consider refurbishing one of the scores of redundant 19th and early 20th century British organs crying out to be loved.

 

I've yet to hear a new Open Diapason by any current British builder that equals a good, stringy Victorian/Edwardian example. They all sound too close to neo-classical models to my ears (with sincere apologies to our hosts). I'll get my coat... :rolleyes:

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Guest Patrick Coleman
If the RAM want a quality instrument, with real pedigree, that actually supports a substantial chunk of the repertoire, perhaps they might consider refurbishing one of the scores of redundant 19th and early 20th century British organs crying out to be loved.

 

Hear, Hear!

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Add me to the list of those wondering why on earth a jolly good English Romantic organ couldn't be rescued and rebuilt....

 

 

How many of you have actually tried to do this?

 

I (with much assistance) have been looking for the past couple of years for a jolly good English Romantic organ to rescue and rebuild.

Looking for c.3manuals/35-45 stops.

Money largely in place.

 

Reasons for rejecting various options:

Too much mucked around by builders tryign to neo-classicise it

Scaling too small

Scaling too big

Badly stored - 90% pipes out of shape, leading to uncertainty of budget and a high risk project

 

I'm know that there examples of where this has been done successfully, but it isn't as easy as it sounds.

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Well the so-called Royal College of Organists was about to do the same thing not so long ago.

 

I can't imagine why British organs and organ builders are simply by-passed all the time.

 

Add me to the list of those wondering why on earth a jolly good English Romantic organ couldn't be rescued and rebuilt....

 

Seems to me that the world is going mad! :rolleyes:

 

All the time? Haven't British builders been involved in major works at Worcester, St Albans, Peterborough, Blackburn, St Paul's, Bridlington, the RAH - to name but a few - in recent years? Or did I imagine that?

 

The British organ builders displaying their wares at the International Organ Festival in July were boasting that their order books were full for several years in advance. There hardly seems to be a crisis. In fact, is it possible that people are going abroad because they want their organ delivering quickly?

 

Which particular jolly good English Romantic organ did you have in mind as being available to rescue and suitable as a teaching instrument at the RAM?

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Surely, if a new organ is to be built, particularly in a concert hall or, in this case, the RAM., it is not outside the capabilities of a BRITISH ORGAN BUILDER, to come up with the goods and build an instrument capable of covering all types of repertoire.

Of course it isn't. But that doesn't preclude the possibility that the RAM found a foreign builder more aligned to what they wanted.

Anyway, it's their money, their organ. Why should anybody else care what they do with it?

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Of course it isn't. But that doesn't preclude the possibility that the RAM found a foreign builder more aligned to what they wanted.

Anyway, it's their money, their organ. Why should anybody else care what they do with it?

 

 

 

 

 

Really ? so where will the money come from to build the new organ the UK or abroad ?

Was a tendering process put in place and were all the larger organ builders invited to tender ?

The whole point is that it is the ROYAL Academy of Music, and one would expect some loyalty to its mother country.

I do not know anything about organ building, but surely like any other trade, you submit a specification to the Company which will either say, yes we can do, or no we cannot do.

Just to say that it is their organ their money is nonsense, because the majority of funding will be provided by us., so we do have the right to make a comment.

There is just no loyalty anymore I am afraid.

What is the view of John Mander ?

Colin Richell.

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Since we are members of the EU I'm afraid in this sort of situation British builders have no priorities. In fact one is legally obliged to advertise a contract in Europe, not just GB. As I once heard an immigration officer say at an airport when someone grumbled about his passport not being British - "We are all Europeans now, sir", only partially seriously I felt.

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Really ? so where will the money come from to build the new organ the UK or abroad ?

...

Just to say that it is their organ their money is nonsense, because the majority of funding will be provided by us., so we do have the right to make a comment.

Well most of it seems to be coming as a result of Elton John's concert. But since it is public knowledge that the builder is foreign, anybody who contributes does so knowingly and can withhold a donation if they would have preferred a British builder. So by definition, all those contributing to the project do approve of the choice (or, more likely, don't care either way), and if there are enough of them then the instrument will get built. What right has anybody to complain if a few tens of thousands of people decide between them to cough up enough money to build an organ by any firm they like?

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Well most of it seems to be coming as a result of Elton John's concert. But since it is public knowledge that the builder is foreign, anybody who contributes does so knowingly and can withhold a donation if they would have preferred a British builder. So by definition, all those contributing to the project do approve of the choice (or, more likely, don't care either way), and if there are enough of them then the instrument will get built. What right has anybody to complain if a few tens of thousands of people decide between them to cough up enough money to build an organ by any firm they like?

 

 

 

I wonder how many people attending the concert were aware that it was a fund raising event for a pipe organ to be built abroad, probably less than 10%.? I agree that many people would not care, and thats fair enough, but I certainly would not contribute to any organ restoration which did not involve an English organ builder., but that is my right.

I still cannot see why a foreign builder would produce something which our Uk builders could not.

Is organ building so complicated and complex ?

And as another contibutor asked "Why could the exisiting organ not be restored, rebuilt or whatever" probably at a fraction of the cost thus saving the hard earned money of people who have donated.?

Colin Richell

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