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ptindall
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I was quite surprised to find an advertisement (from one of our leading firms), for a general organ-builder:

 

He or she needs to deal with 'the interpretation of drawings and CAD...the manufacture of all component parts from small action parts to large slider soundboards, consoles and casework...assembly of mechanical action and electronic parts...ability for hand finishing of wood to a high standard and veneering...knowledge of a wide range of finishing techniques...carving of decorative details...design ability including freehand drawing and CAD...ideally qualified to degree standard or equivalent, and some musical knowledge would be an advantage.'

 

£10-£10.50 per hour.

 

This superwoman (or man) would obviously be a highly skilled woodworker: I know several tradesmen with much more primitive skills who earn four times as much or more.

 

How does this compare with other countries?

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I was quite surprised to find an advertisement (from one of our leading firms), for a general organ-builder:

 

He or she needs to deal with 'the interpretation of drawings and CAD...the manufacture of all component parts from small action parts to large slider soundboards, consoles and casework...assembly of mechanical action and electronic parts...ability for hand finishing of wood to a high standard and veneering...knowledge of a wide range of finishing techniques...carving of decorative details...design ability including freehand drawing and CAD...ideally qualified to degree standard or equivalent, and some musical knowledge would be an advantage.'

 

£10-£10.50 per hour.

 

This superwoman (or man) would obviously be a highly skilled woodworker: I know several tradesmen with much more primitive skills who earn four times as much or more.

 

How does this compare with other countries?

[/quote}

 

Whatever country you are in, you will never be rich being an organ builder, but you will get to see some amazing places and organs, although many of them you will never, ever, want to see again. . .

This is actually well above the average UK organbuilder's rate! Who is it, I'm tempted to jump ship!

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I was quite surprised to find an advertisement (from one of our leading firms), for a general organ-builder:

 

He or she needs to deal with 'the interpretation of drawings and CAD...the manufacture of all component parts from small action parts to large slider soundboards, consoles and casework...assembly of mechanical action and electronic parts...ability for hand finishing of wood to a high standard and veneering...knowledge of a wide range of finishing techniques...carving of decorative details...design ability including freehand drawing and CAD...ideally qualified to degree standard or equivalent, and some musical knowledge would be an advantage.'

 

£10-£10.50 per hour.

 

This superwoman (or man) would obviously be a highly skilled woodworker: I know several tradesmen with much more primitive skills who earn four times as much or more.

 

How does this compare with other countries?

 

 

This smells like an IBO advert dedicated to those accredited and very professional organbuilders, but I hope it's also an advert that has gone beyond the inner ivory frames of the IBO and has found it's way in the wider circle and to those other organbuilders equally as busy and perfessoinal. It seems like it's come from a company in need for a jack of all trade, so maybe a well known smaller company. How old is the advert? I was surprised why in any UK organ building advert why they seek someone with a degree, when most English organ builders are don't like university people (I've had this rudeness put upon me maybe in fear or their insecurity that I might take their job) or they are so skilled anyway they could have Dr's and Prof's after their names! - I mean organ builders not the managing directors! The wage actually seems higher than I expected so it can't be a London firm can it? I can think of a few companies but I think I wouldn't be allowed to name them on this 'sensitive' website. I won't sleep now though - got to find out........zzzzzzzzzzzz.

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I was quite surprised to find an advertisement (from one of our leading firms), for a general organ-builder:

 

He or she needs to deal with 'the interpretation of drawings and CAD...the manufacture of all component parts from small action parts to large slider soundboards, consoles and casework...assembly of mechanical action and electronic parts...ability for hand finishing of wood to a high standard and veneering...knowledge of a wide range of finishing techniques...carving of decorative details...design ability including freehand drawing and CAD...ideally qualified to degree standard or equivalent, and some musical knowledge would be an advantage.'

 

£10-£10.50 per hour.

 

This superwoman (or man) would obviously be a highly skilled woodworker: I know several tradesmen with much more primitive skills who earn four times as much or more.

 

How does this compare with other countries?

 

 

==============================

 

 

I'm afraid that simple economics enters into a quite complex equation.

How many organs are being newly built in the UK?

How many organs are being re-built in the UK at any one time?

The answer to the first question is very few, and to the second question; not that many.

In other words, the demand is quite small, which means that competition for even modest contracts has got to be fierce. This represents an enormous contrast to the apogee of British organ-building, between 1850 and 1920 or so, when more or less every builder, (and there were a lot of them), were kept extremely busy, due to the huge number of town-halls, churches and chapels then being built. Even quite modest builders seemed able to churn out hundreds of new instruments; possibly due to the growth in the organ-supply trade which serviced the industry on a well organised factory basis; made possible by the railways. Only the biggest names were anywhere near being self-sufficient, and of course, John Compton was possibly the only British organ-builder to make every organ-component in-house at the North Acton works.

Of course, the old funding arrangement of patronage has now largely been displaced by fund-raising, and that in itself means that pennies have to count and be wisely spent. The days of a wealthy industrialist or mining magnate simply donating money, without knowing the first thing about organ-building, have largely gone.

Being completely out-of-touch with organ-building these days, I cannot comment with any degree of authority, but I very much doubt that any organ-builder is so self-sufficient as to make most things in-house these days, and that means, that in addition to supporting the firm awarded the contract, some of the funding is helping to support outside suppliers, (such as Laukhof in Germany), who need their profit margins like anyone else.

However, it is more complicated still, because a now very competitive electronic-organ industry is always happy to knock on the door to offer a cheaper alternative, which impresses many who either do not know better, or who would spend the money on worthier things, like carpets.

The churches themselves are feeling the pinch of declining numbers, reduced income from investments and ever increasing costs. In other words, the economic pressures are considerable, whichever way one looks.

Things like business rates, water rates, gas, electricity and other more or less fixed costs, do not get any less, and even keeping pace with the increases is a struggle for many businesses, when those increases cannot easily be passed on to customers who can easily go elsewhere,

Sadly, under circumstances of such economic squeeze, control of costs is everything in survivng what is a depressed market, and wages are a variable cost which can be manipulated to some extent, as they often are.

Of course, many self-emplyed tradesmen, with very limited skills, charge the earth. So do lawyers, accountants and doctors in private medical practices, as well as business consultants charging hundreds of pounds an hour, but possibly contributing millions to the profits of major corporations.

Organ-builders are underpaid certainly, and I doubt that there is an organ-building company who wouldn't like to pay their staff more, but where would the money come from?

Is a brilliant organist any less skilled than a surgeon? Is an organ-builder any less skilled than the men who make hi-tech racing-cars or jet-fighters?

Organists too are vastly underpaid, and probably always have been, unless they played in the cinemas 80 years ago, when the best could earn as much as £100,000 per annum in to-day's money. The equivalent today are the pop moguls who manipulate and control the market-place, with smart ideas like "The X-factor", "Pop Idol" and "Britain's got talent." These people earn tens of millions in the process, and actually manage to generate more national revenue than many banks and major investment portfolios.

Although we may be moving away from it gradually, we live in the age of pop culture and celebrity, as well as professional sport, and that's where the serious money is to be found, I'm afraid.

The trouble is, when we start this sort of comparison, we end up with the political and the philosophical, as well as comparisons between "market forces," "planned economies" and "minimum wages."

Let's face it, if organ-building or organ-playing were to be decided on the basis of getting-rich-quick or even earning an appropriate reward, we'd all have fled into pop-music and on-line sleaze a long time agi......except that we didn't, wouldn't and probably couldn't.

Life is seldom fair, and it probably never will be, but nothing is more cruel than the laws of supply and demand.

 

MM

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but nothing is more cruel than the laws of supply and demand.

True, but it's that same law that (let's assume that today there is 30% surplus capacity in the British Organbuilding world) ensures there is not 300% surplus capacity, at which point this advert would be offering national minimum wage (or even, some 'self employed' scam to pay below it).

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True, but it's that same law that (let's assume that today there is 30% surplus capacity in the British Organbuilding world) ensures there is not 300% surplus capacity, at which point this advert would be offering national minimum wage (or even, some 'self employed' scam to pay below it).

 

I'd be absolutely fascinated to know what you ThOUGHT we got paid in this trade?

 

DW

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If one trawls through the NPOR, it is noticeable that a lot of organ-building work in this country is done by little known tune-and-bodge people, one imagines at very low prices. Presumably they were mostly trained by the big firms, but can make a much better living cutting corners on their own.

 

It is understandable why this happens, but surely it is short sighted. In an increasingly centralised church, with its plethora of advisory committees, why should parishes (and cathedrals: one can think of one or two) not be compelled to have work done to a proper standard? Churches are not allowed to have accountancy or building work, for instance, done on the cheap.

This would increase the amount of work for decent firms, and presumably allow them to pay more than pitiful wages.

 

I have in the past been generally in favour of importing some organs from abroad, for the usual reasons. However, if the majority of important contracts always go elsewhere (which they do), there will be no industry left. Is this what we want?

 

Also, I can't understand why clients keep going to some foreign (or British) builders time after time, when it is well known that their track record has been distinctly patchy. Is this not a little lazy?

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If one trawls through the NPOR, it is noticeable that a lot of organ-building work in this country is done by little known tune-and-bodge people, one imagines at very low prices. Presumably they were mostly trained by the big firms, but can make a much better living cutting corners on their own.

 

I am sorry that you think that anyone that works for him/herself is a bodge artist who cuts corners. A good many organ builders who are self-employed are doing so because they have been trained by the larger firms, but simply cannot afford to live on the wages these firms offer. I worked for a large organ building company for 21 years and then went self-employed - not through choice, simply that the firm ceased trading. In an increasingly diminishing trade none of us can afford to do bodge-jobs, because it affects not only our livelihood, but the organs that we work on - i.e. they get to a stage that they are not restorable and thus are scrapped in favour of electronic piles of junk or, if you are very wealthy, foreign piles of junk.

 

I look after 180 organs - 40 for another company. They are all very important to me as instruments and get looked after as such. One instrument that I care for was built 2 years ago by a foreign firm and is very good. A British organ building company built exactly the same sized instrument recently for half the cost and is much much better. Also, what 'important contracts' are you meaning? I call Worcester Cathedral's new organ an important contract by Ken Tickell and St Peter's, St Albans by Manders a stunning musical instrument.

 

Also, I can't understand why clients keep going to some foreign (or British) builders time after time

 

Who are they suppose to go to then? Marsian organ-builders?

 

 

Peter De Vile

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If one trawls through the NPOR, it is noticeable that a lot of organ-building work in this country is done by little known tune-and-bodge people, one imagines at very low prices. Presumably they were mostly trained by the big firms, but can make a much better living cutting corners on their own.

 

Also, I can't understand why clients keep going to some foreign (or British) builders time after time, when it is well known that their track record has been distinctly patchy. Is this not a little lazy?

 

My instinct naturally jumps to the defence one or two people who I know produce absolutely first-class work - work which I would choose over virtually any large firm, here or abroad - and the previous correspondent's excellent work keeping a particularly large and aged cathedral behemoth going is surely amongst that. But there's no escaping that there is a grain of truth, is there - from instruments which only seem to last ten years before needing rebuilding, to churches whose 884 single manuals are tuned three times a year.

 

There are duffers in every walk of life - food, coffee, cars, ISPs - is it possible to get anything productive out of this line of enquiry, with or without naming names? Probably not.

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It is understandable why this happens, but surely it is short sighted. In an increasingly centralised church, with its plethora of advisory committees, why should parishes (and cathedrals: one can think of one or two) not be compelled to have work done to a proper standard? Churches are not allowed to have accountancy or building work, for instance, done on the cheap.

This would increase the amount of work for decent firms, and presumably allow them to pay more than pitiful wages.

 

Now this is something which can be discussed. I know of a particular diocesan advisor who has taken steps towards this by insisting that any builders working on his 'patch' are IBO registered. That means that there won't be any Drake work happening in that diocese, and nor many others who choose, for one reason or another, to steer clear of the IBO.

 

(Often the bodgiest of the bodge work is not done on the cheap, incidentally; far from it.)

 

Has anybody else ever browsed the IBO builder inspection reports and considered that the information given is sometimes at odds with the work they have seen in the real world? Would it not be better for the inspections to be carried out on a random basis by arrangement with the churches themselves through the existing diocesan systems, rather than the present arrangement where builders themselves are asked to select examples of their work for inspection?

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I am sorry that you think that anyone that works for him/herself is a bodge artist who cuts corners.

 

I didn't say that. I have experience of your fine restorations and those of others. I don't regard you as 'little known'! But you must admit that there are plenty of those people out there.

 

A good many organ builders who are self-employed are doing so because they have been trained by the larger firms, but simply cannot afford to live on the wages these firms offer. Well quite. I worked for a large organ building company for 21 years and then went self-employed - not through choice, simply that the firm ceased trading. Absolutely

 

 

 

Also, what 'important contracts' are you meaning? I call Worcester Cathedral's new organ an important contract by Ken Tickell and St Peter's, St Albans by Manders a stunning musical instrument.

 

I would agree entirely. And Lincoln's Inn. But what about Selwyn, Girton, Leeds, Huddersfield, Marlborough, Tit Hall, Glasgow, Cardiff, Ely Place, RAM, Petersham, Lyme Regis, Beaminster, Jesus, Aberdeen, St John's. Not that any of these are necessarily bad organs, but it is a majority.

 

 

 

Who are they suppose to go to then? Marsian organ-builders?

 

Not what I said The point is surely: don't go by reputation and sales pitch and listening I was wandering round a church today while the organist was practising the hymns.: large newish organ by one of the world's most successful organ builders, perfect position, good acoustics. But too loud, too coarse: perfectly in tune but nasty reeds: no nice sounds whatever (and she did try lots of different combinations).

 

Peter De Vile

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Now this is something which can be discussed. I know of a particular diocesan advisor who has taken steps towards this by insisting that any builders working on his 'patch' are IBO registered. That means that there won't be any Drake work happening in that diocese, and nor many others who choose, for one reason or another, to steer clear of the IBO.

 

(Often the bodgiest of the bodge work is not done on the cheap, incidentally; far from it.)

 

Has anybody else ever browsed the IBO builder inspection reports and considered that the information given is sometimes at odds with the work they have seen in the real world? Would it not be better for the inspections to be carried out on a random basis by arrangement with the churches themselves through the existing diocesan systems, rather than the present arrangement where builders themselves are asked to select examples of their work for inspection?

 

 

Did anyone read my last post? The IBO bless them are ok in that they encourage members on training courses which is great and they have in their journal a compiled list of people who have been accredited for a particular type of work, ie. New organs; Tuning ; Historic Restoration - in fact according to the 2004 IBO Journal there are six categories in which the firms who have passed a visual and aural assessment of their work have been entered. They also give maps showing where these people are located, how many people are working for them, examples of their work sampled and membership offers. To me this sounds like a well organised institution. However I do have problems with (and has already been described above) certain organ advisors only choosing from this list. I don't think it's fair when having been told in the past by the IBO of three very highly regarded organ builders that unless they join the IBO they will never get any work. I hope this is no longer the case as an intention as clearly the three companies I have in mind are actually producing an outstanding quality of workmanship and consistency and are extremely busy, maybe more so than some of the bigger accredited organ builders who for some like to think they invented the instrument! I don't know how exactly the inspections are carried out but I am really left ashamed when hearing a really out of tune organ from a top class accredited member of the IBO and also from some who are falsely advertising a job still in their care!

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However I do have problems with (and has already been described above) certain organ advisors only choosing from this list. I don't think it's fair when having been told in the past by the IBO of three very highly regarded organ builders that unless they join the IBO they will never get any work.

 

And so you SHOULD have a problem with this - those who are doing and saying such things DO have a problem as such actions or even the suggestion is illegal under the now rather strict anti-competition legislation which is in force. You or anyone else who has suffered loss as a consequence of such behaviour can report it to the DTI. I find it impossible however to believe that any such suggestion would have come from the IBO proper - from a particular personage possibly?

 

In the end, Diocesan Advisers can only make recommendations to a Diocesan Advisory committee which, in turn can only recommend to the Chancellor of the Diocese. There is no right to, or occasion when they can, insist to a parish that they must use any particular builder. As others have said most eloquently, there are good and bad, in and out of the IBO. In the end, membership of an organisation should not guarantee work and non-membership should not (and indeed must not) deny such opportunity.

 

There is a dilema: how does a Parish make an informed decision - especially in circumstances which I have experienced recently where a perfectly good instrument (Walker) was thrown out by a PCC, advised by a newcomer part-time organist who also happened to be an employee of the firm from which they were advised to purchase their new overly-large electrone which cost twice what they needed to spend on the pipe organ. He did the same thing in a previous Parish and, surprise, he moved on to another within a few weeks of this one being signed and sealed. Believe me, there are bigger problems which we have to face here.

 

DW

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There is a dilema: how does a Parish make an informed decision - especially in circumstances which I have experienced recently where a perfectly good instrument (Walker) was thrown out by a PCC, advised by a newcomer part-time organist who also happened to be an employee of the firm from which they were advised to purchase their new overly-large electrone which cost twice what they needed to spend on the pipe organ. He did the same thing in a previous Parish and, surprise, he moved on to another within a few weeks of this one being signed and sealed. Believe me, there are bigger problems which we have to face here.

 

DW

 

I can identify with this situation having fought a long battle in a very similar situation. The good news is that our pipe organ is to be restored!

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