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How alive is it?


Guest Patrick Coleman
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Guest Patrick Coleman

I'm prompted by the thread on poor music in church, and by the arrival this morning of yet another brochure of recorded organ music for use in services, to ask where there are still small, possibly relatively undistinguished instruments that are nevertheless cared for and well used in the liturgy.

 

It's an invitation for organists and builders alike, including our hosts, to cast some light on the real state of health of the many instruments in small churches and chapels, and to give some indication whether these are going to survive the temptation to move to pre-recorded, easily come by music.

 

It's not an invitation to run down or criticise the providers and users of such resources!

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I may have said this here before but within ten minutes walk of my house are two crematoria. One, owned by Destiny uses the Wesley system most of the time. The use of "live" organists is the exception rather than the rule. The other, owned and run by the city Council, asked FD's whether they would prefer "live" organists or the Wesley system and all except one asked for live organists. That crematorium keeps a regular team of about half a dozen organists supplied with ample work which, in all fairness, they distrubute as evenly as praticable. Admittedly we are talking electronic instruments but we do see that, by and large, people don't want recordings. People like the personal touch and we organists build up good working relationships with most of the regular FDs as well as with the superb staff at the crematorium.

 

One worry I have about pipe organs is my - perhaps inaccurate - understanding from a very recent magazine is that whilst BIOS happily gives out certificates of importance to church organs these certificates have no legal or ecclesiastical status whatsoever. I hope I have misunderstood but I rather fear not. Any comments about this, please?

 

Some churches are storing up problems for themselve, partly by not encouraging young people, in a practical way, to become organists but also by not building up organ funds to keep their instruments in working order. I know, for example, one magnificent Hunter organ where the action is in a very bad state and where they admit that if it failed there would be no money to do anything about it. Come to think of it, I know two magnificent Hunter organs in exactly that situation.

 

Malcolm

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One worry I have about pipe organs is my - perhaps inaccurate - understanding from a very recent magazine is that whilst BIOS happily gives out certificates of importance to church organs these certificates have no legal or ecclesiastical status whatsoever. I hope I have misunderstood but I rather fear not. Any comments about this, please?

 

 

 

The point is, at least an attempt is being made to raise awareness of the value of these instruments, about which the vast majority of clergy and congregations are completely ignorant.

As Mr Kemp must know, being a BIOS member, the council of BIOS has for decades been trying to persuade the authorities, especially English Heritage, that there should be statutory protection for organs in this country as there is in many others, so far without success.

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I'm prompted by the thread on poor music in church, and by the arrival this morning of yet another brochure of recorded organ music for use in services, to ask where there are still small, possibly relatively undistinguished instruments that are nevertheless cared for and well used in the liturgy.

 

It's an invitation for organists and builders alike, including our hosts, to cast some light on the real state of health of the many instruments in small churches and chapels, and to give some indication whether these are going to survive the temptation to move to pre-recorded, easily come by music.

 

It's not an invitation to run down or criticise the providers and users of such resources!

 

This is an interesting question.

 

There are of course many thousands of small, possibly relatively undistinguished instruments. I would be willing to wager that the vast majority of them were 'cared for' far too frequently using methods which reflect the unwillingness of PCCs to get to grips with fundamental problems.

 

An example is a fine little G&D near me which is running so badly that it is tuned through six or seven times a year for special services. After 5 years of this sort of treatment, it would of course have been cheaper to restore the instrument properly and take away the problem, making it entirely possible that this small 5-stop organ with no reeds wouldn't need to see a tuner for a further five years.

 

We Socialists are all about regulation, and some may think that a bad thing, but I cannot think of another way to earn the trust of PCCs and win the battle over what equals good long-term value - except by the implementation of a body which will randomly inspect all workmanship. The IBO's 'tell us which jobs to inspect' approach is a start, but doesn't address the possibilty that a builder will quite happily employ dental floss, elastic bands, drawing pins, masking tape, condoms (yes - repairing pneumatic puff motors) and even good old fashioned gravity (a 42 note pedal rank with the rackboard totally unsecured, pipes leaning back against the wall) in the rest of their work (all items I have removed from organs in the last three years).

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