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AJJ

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What do people think? - two current situations:

 

- A one manual 6 stop village church organ dating from the late 1890s - built by a well known regional builder, of no great artistic merit and similar to many others in that area of the county - 'needs thorough restoration etc. It sounds reasonable though can not cope with a full congregation due to its recessed chancel position. The pedalboard is severely non standard and the Swell pedal the expected unbalanced lever on the RH side. The music at the church includes anthems etc. and the organist attempts to play 'proper' music for voluntaries.

 

- A rather nice three manual 'Father Willis' from the late 1880s in a reasonably large town church with a good musical tradition - action replaced for its centenary but tonally pretty much as original - now electro/pneumatic. 'Recently ''rebuilt/restored'' with extra pedal stops added, a solo reed revoiced from a nearby redundant organ (not Willis) and new mixture work.

 

In the first case the DAC has said that things must remain exactly as they are - thoughts of anything from minor changes to re using pipework in a new extension instrument, substituting a standard pedalboard etc. had been mooted. In the second case a reasonably nice FW (albeit with non original action) has had bits tacked on presumably so that the organ can be more 'versatile'.

 

I am not one who believes in historical for historical's sake but in the first instance the church is not able to do what it would wish from a musical point of view and is stuck with an inadequate and second rate instrument yet the second has been able to tinker with a good instrument that copes adequately with what is required of it.

 

I must add that these come from different DAC areas and that those involved from each diocese are seemingly competent in their roles - it just seems a little baffling. Does anyone have any thoughts?

 

A

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What do people think? - two current situations:

 

- A one manual 6 stop village church organ dating from the late 1890s - built by a well known regional builder, of no great artistic merit and similar to many others in that area of the county - 'needs thorough restoration etc. It sounds reasonable though can not cope with a full congregation due to its recessed chancel position. The pedalboard is severely non standard and the Swell pedal the expected unbalanced lever on the RH side. The music at the church includes anthems etc. and the organist attempts to play 'proper' music for voluntaries.

 

- A rather nice three manual 'Father Willis' from the late 1880s in a reasonably large town church with a good musical tradition - action replaced for its centenary but tonally pretty much as original - now electro/pneumatic. 'Recently ''rebuilt/restored'' with extra pedal stops added, a solo reed revoiced from a nearby redundant organ (not Willis) and new mixture work.

 

In the first case the DAC has said that things must remain exactly as they are - thoughts of anything from minor changes to re using pipework in a new extension instrument, substituting a standard pedalboard etc. had been mooted. In the second case a reasonably nice FW (albeit with non original action) has had bits tacked on presumably so that the organ can be more 'versatile'.

 

I am not one who believes in historical for historical's sake but in the first instance the church is not able to do what it would wish from a musical point of view and is stuck with an inadequate and second rate instrument yet the second has been able to tinker with a good instrument that copes adequately with what is required of it.

 

I must add that these come from different DAC areas and that those involved from each diocese are seemingly competent in their roles - it just seems a little baffling. Does anyone have any thoughts?

 

A

 

 

Just as I wouldn't like to travel from the South Coast to London in a Morris Minor anymore (I used to) I would rather have a decent electronic than a mediocre one-manual six stop 'locally built' organ, frankly.

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What do people think? - two current situations:

 

- A one manual 6 stop village church organ dating from the late 1890s - built by a well known regional builder, of no great artistic merit and similar to many others in that area of the county - 'needs thorough restoration etc. It sounds reasonable though can not cope with a full congregation due to its recessed chancel position. The pedalboard is severely non standard and the Swell pedal the expected unbalanced lever on the RH side. The music at the church includes anthems etc. and the organist attempts to play 'proper' music for voluntaries.

 

- A rather nice three manual 'Father Willis' from the late 1880s in a reasonably large town church with a good musical tradition - action replaced for its centenary but tonally pretty much as original - now electro/pneumatic. 'Recently ''rebuilt/restored'' with extra pedal stops added, a solo reed revoiced from a nearby redundant organ (not Willis) and new mixture work.

 

In the first case the DAC has said that things must remain exactly as they are - thoughts of anything from minor changes to re using pipework in a new extension instrument, substituting a standard pedalboard etc. had been mooted. In the second case a reasonably nice FW (albeit with non original action) has had bits tacked on presumably so that the organ can be more 'versatile'.

 

I am not one who believes in historical for historical's sake but in the first instance the church is not able to do what it would wish from a musical point of view and is stuck with an inadequate and second rate instrument yet the second has been able to tinker with a good instrument that copes adequately with what is required of it.

 

I must add that these come from different DAC areas and that those involved from each diocese are seemingly competent in their roles - it just seems a little baffling. Does anyone have any thoughts?

 

A

 

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

 

 

 

I suspect that many organ-consultants believe that anything old is worthy of preservation; like those who collect chamber-pots and old post-cards. There is a world of difference between things which define an age at the level of curiosity, and those things which define an age absolutely. As in all things, there are layers of worthiness, and I don’t suppose that many people would quibble at the idea of jealously guarding and restoring vital heritage; whether than be a Fr Willis organ or an A4 Pacific class steam-locomotive.

In my own lifetime, I have seen the wholesale destruction of that which I would consider vital heritage, and the rather pointless retention of things which are more in the way of “olde worlde” curiosity.

If one intends to create a tourist theme-park, all “olde” things serve a purpose. The village of Haworth, 5 miles away from me, is a classic example. Others would include Saltaire, Bourneville and many of the lovely, unspoiled towns and villages in the Fens, the Lakes, the Yorkshire Dales etc. In such situations, even bone hair-combs, teasels and brass bed-warmers serve the purpose of defining and preserving the spirit of an age.

I could therefore understand a grubby little organ being preserved, if it was part of some vital heritage location, but interestingly, the organs associated with Patrick Bronte at Haworth, and with Sit Titus Salt at Saltaire, have both been largely ruined or discarded! (Not that they were terribly good first-time around).

 

I suspect that a lot of those people involved in organ-historical matters, are no better than those who collect chamber-pots.

What I find curious, it the fact that they often want to preserve that which was third-rate when it was first made, and often ousted something far better. The Victorians were the most destructive generation in history, who swept aside medieval buildings with glee, who carved railways through areas of outstanding natural beauty and had absolutely no respect for anything which got in the way of progress.

I recall 45 years ago, when I took an interest in British organ-history and old English music. Thurston Dart brought out a recording, which included a few instruments either built by old builders such as Snetzler, or which contained old pipework. (Rotherham PC was one, I seem to remember). There was a distinct paucity of early instruments worthy of the name, but of course a few were left and some still remain to this day. However, there are actually very few early organs around, and most of our “heritage” is that which comes from the Victorian era; whether made in England or imported from abroad.

Purely from the heritage point of view, many instruments sound much the same as others from the same stable. Most Forster & Andrews organs sound much the same, as do organs made by Binns, Conacher, Laycock & Bannister, Brindley & Foster (et al), simply because they were “stock” instruments and even “factory” instruments, where production-output was more important than artistry. In fact, you only need about half a dozen of each, carefully selected, to preserve the style as an example of heritage; no matter how worthy or flawed that may be. (Even one Compton theatre organ is much the same as the next!)

If artistry and musical results matter as they should do, it is important to discern the differences between first-rate, second-rate and just plain ordinary; the alternative being to place age before beauty, or even swine before pearl.

Of course, everyone (I think), would agree that the few remaining Fr Willis originals, along with the best examples of Lewis, Hill, H & H, Walker, Compton, Taylor, (even Wurlitzer), need to be very carefully guarded and treasured for what they are, as well as others which are remarkable for their musicality rather their pedigree. I’m sure that our kind hosts would also wish to see their own contemporary work, and that of others, respected for what they are by future generations.

My worry is always that history takes precedence over musical worth, but I am always acutely aware that music, like history, can take unexpected twists and turns, and therein lays the dilemma.

 

As for consistency, life is never that. It is as chaotic and inconsistent as it is possible to be, and that, I'm afraid, is the price of freedom of expression.

 

 

MM

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This an interesting topic, particularly at the moment for me.

 

I'm contemplating the retention and renovation of a fairly versatile instrument (which has its problems after 30-odd years since the last work done on it), which contains 18th C pipework, but not a lot, and some additions over the year from the 19thC to the late 20th. An alternative scheme might see the instrument relocated from its current position in the church and restored to its original (perhaps less versatile in a modern sense) scheme from the 18thC. The latter scheme would have mechanical action, the former would retain electro-pneumatic. I confess I'm torn between the two, however, might we regard history (in the development of an instrument during its lifetime) as having stopped in the 18thC, or can we say that more recent history also has validity?

 

I realise I've give little detail, but would be interested in any opinions of the merits or otherwise of the two extremes in a general sense.

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Guest Patrick Coleman

I'm responding as a DAC member and also running a project to rehouse a significant Walker organ in place of a large Vowles which is beyond economic recovery.

 

I would probably defend the work on the Willis as long as the additions did not incorporate actual changes in the Willis pipework and voicing, so that the Willis could be played as it was originally intended to be.

 

I would not defend the decision on the small organ (I assume Vowles) because it would be perfectly possible to expand it and make it more usable while retaining its character. Of course it is not clear from the OP whether the organ's original tones would have been changed to fit some new scheme, but there is no reason why a new scheme cannot be designed around existing sounds.

 

When DACs/organ advisers insist on preserving instruments in aspic that are no longer fit for purpose, they play into the hands of the electronic brigade (as we can see from this thread). Of course, there will still be those who want an unsuitably large electronic, and these should be resisted in every way possible.

 

At the end of the day, the question has to be asked whether the church is there as a museum (for organs or anything else - e.g. clergy) or as a place to meet for worship. Musical instruments required for this should be fit for the purpose required of them.

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

 

Purely from the heritage point of view, many instruments sound much the same as others from the same stable. Most Forster & Andrews organs sound much the same, as do organs made by Binns, Conacher, Laycock & Bannister, Brindley & Foster (et al), simply because they were “stock” instruments and even “factory” instruments, where production-output was more important than artistry. In fact, you only need about half a dozen of each, carefully selected, to preserve the style as an example of heritage; no matter how worthy or flawed that may be. (Even one Compton theatre organ is much the same as the next!)

MM

 

That was how I thought the BIOS Historic Organ Certificate Scheme was originally going to work so the little available lottery money could be targetted on such instruments.

PJW

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Is there consistency? No. And just as some of the more prolific consultants have, on occasion, been subject to unkind remarks about the passing of Deutschmarks in brown envelopes, so the same may well go on with electronics now. Allegedly a good organ near me has been 'sampled' by one of these companies, by the arrangement of the DOA who has access to it, and now appears electronically reproduced around the diocese with mixed effect (and, in one particular case, every one of the alternative temperaments mis-spelt).

 

I don't know which two instruments are referred to at the start of the thread, but trigger swells and non-standard pedalboards should not be a hindrance to making music in a parish church any more than different control layouts in different makes of car are a hindrance to getting from A to B. Such limitations are only a perception, there to be overcome and worked with rather than against. If instead the hand is forced to fit the glove, standardisation becomes the norm, innovation and individuality are dead, the precedent is set and the electronics have won the argument. Dazzled with toys and cathedral sound-a-likes, no self-respecting village church will want to be without one, and doubtless will be utterly mystified that they are still, unaccountably, quite unable to attract Daniel Roth or Jeremy Filsell to play for them on a Sunday.

 

Almost no instance, however apparently second-rate and hopeless, is actually as bad as it seems. I know that you have yourself (AJJ) seen what can be done with an apparently disastrous situation by the hand of a skilled and musical builder, and it can certainly be made to last longer than any electronic. (If not, go at once to Erlestoke - the biggest basket case I have ever seen, but now near perfect with no tonal changes.) This is not an argument we should be having any more. All that glisters is not gold, and that applies just as much to electronics as to adding unnecessary upperwork to organs never intended to have them. If the original conception really is so inappropriate for the building, why was it put there and paid for? If the organist really can't play four hymns on it, by what miracle will they be able to play four hymns on a 60-stop electronic? Otherwise, the answer is straightforward - employ someone with vision and musical/liturgical understanding who will get to grips with the fundamental problems of the job (buried position, a century of poor maintenance and 'safety first' action adjustments, the buildup of dirt and unwanted friction) and address them in a way which, in all probability, will also get to grips with the compromises that the original builder didn't want to make the first time round. In short, remove the factors which play into the hands of the electronic salesman. If you can do that without adding mixtures and solo reeds which didn't ought to be there, you will save a bucket of money now and in the years to come. Exactly what sort of "proper" organ music and choral anthems cannot be performed on the instrument as it is, and why?

 

Caveat - unless, of course, you've got an Osmond/Daniels extension organ or similar, in which case you've already got the cheap imitation and may as well start again with one of the many excellent redundant organs around. I still have an utterly ravishing 1905 Walker 2m tracker, complete from strings to pepperpot Oboe, looking for a home...

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Some good sense from 'Hecklephone' - 'am very much in agreement. In the case of the 1 manual however, it would be interesting to take our DAC to see some of the work Paul Hale has initiated in the midlands with I think Groves of Nottingham where similar ideas as were used in the Walker 'Positif' organs haver been used effectivley with older pipework. Maybe someone on here has played one of these. The FW has now really lost it's integrity.

The redundant organ route can often lead to exciting places - I played one that 'moved' last weekend and it worked well in its new home.

 

The 1905 Walker sounds nice - 'will mention it to the Rector!

 

A

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It might be worth pointing out that DAC stands for Diocesan Advisory Committee and DOA for Diocesan Organ Advisor. In both cases they are there to give advice not to rule. The application for a faculty is made to the Chancellor through the Registrar, and I know of a number of cases where the Chancellow as overruled the DAC, although as advisory committee they cannot strictly rule, and granted a faculty against their advice, to much success.

 

Jonathan :D

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Is there consistency? No. And just as some of the more prolific consultants have, on occasion, been subject to unkind remarks about the passing of Deutschmarks in brown envelopes, so the same may well go on with electronics now. Allegedly a good organ near me has been 'sampled' by one of these companies, by the arrangement of the DOA who has access to it, and now appears electronically reproduced around the diocese with mixed effect (and, in one particular case, every one of the alternative temperaments mis-spelt).

 

I don't know which two instruments are referred to at the start of the thread, but trigger swells and non-standard pedalboards should not be a hindrance to making music in a parish church any more than different control layouts in different makes of car are a hindrance to getting from A to B. Such limitations are only a perception, there to be overcome and worked with rather than against. If instead the hand is forced to fit the glove, standardisation becomes the norm, innovation and individuality are dead, the precedent is set and the electronics have won the argument. Dazzled with toys and cathedral sound-a-likes, no self-respecting village church will want to be without one, and doubtless will be utterly mystified that they are still, unaccountably, quite unable to attract Daniel Roth or Jeremy Filsell to play for them on a Sunday.

 

Almost no instance, however apparently second-rate and hopeless, is actually as bad as it seems. I know that you have yourself (AJJ) seen what can be done with an apparently disastrous situation by the hand of a skilled and musical builder, and it can certainly be made to last longer than any electronic. (If not, go at once to Erlestoke - the biggest basket case I have ever seen, but now near perfect with no tonal changes.) This is not an argument we should be having any more. All that glisters is not gold, and that applies just as much to electronics as to adding unnecessary upperwork to organs never intended to have them. If the original conception really is so inappropriate for the building, why was it put there and paid for? If the organist really can't play four hymns on it, by what miracle will they be able to play four hymns on a 60-stop electronic? Otherwise, the answer is straightforward - employ someone with vision and musical/liturgical understanding who will get to grips with the fundamental problems of the job (buried position, a century of poor maintenance and 'safety first' action adjustments, the buildup of dirt and unwanted friction) and address them in a way which, in all probability, will also get to grips with the compromises that the original builder didn't want to make the first time round. In short, remove the factors which play into the hands of the electronic salesman. If you can do that without adding mixtures and solo reeds which didn't ought to be there, you will save a bucket of money now and in the years to come. Exactly what sort of "proper" organ music and choral anthems cannot be performed on the instrument as it is, and why?

 

Caveat - unless, of course, you've got an Osmond/Daniels extension organ or similar, in which case you've already got the cheap imitation and may as well start again with one of the many excellent redundant organs around. I still have an utterly ravishing 1905 Walker 2m tracker, complete from strings to pepperpot Oboe, looking for a home...

 

----------------------------------------------------

 

 

 

It seems to me that this post starts from a prejudiced position which may well indicate a degree of bitterness towards the electronic-organ industry, yet in some ways, it is the electronic-organ which has enabled the sound of the instrument to be sustained within the context of church worship. If bribery and corruption has played a part in that, then this is a quite separate issue which should be addressed on a case by case basis. Veiled slurs and implications are utterly out of place without specific evidence. The idea that merely sampling something, and then distributing the replicated result, is probably spurious, unless the electronic manufacturer is utterly bereft of musical common-sense. No matter what sampled sounds are used, (sometimes not at all with synthesis), good electronic-organ companies still “voice” to a considerable extent. Of course, were they harmoniums, no-one would complain!

 

The analogy of vehicle controls I find amusing and very wrong. I CAN drive a large truck with a non-syncromesh “crash” gearbox using double de-clutching, and even change gear without using the clutch. I can do this without (a) wrecking the transmission or (:D breaking my wrist. I know how to use an “Eaton twin-splitter” gearbox, an old pre-selector change, a conventional high/low transfer box and electronically controlled and computerised gearboxes in “economy” mode, “power” override mode or “semi-automatic” mode. I know how to play around with 16 forward gears and two reverse ratios; not to mention diff-locks, traction control, axle lifters and suspension height controls.

 

Is it a hindrance to progress?

 

Well no, but sometimes, (especially with new vehicles), it can take 20 minutes to find out how to adjust the steering-column or release the trailer parking brake!!

 

These quirks are NOT merely a perception, but a confounded nuisance in many instances.

 

The whole point of RCO consoles and standardised road-signs, is to make organ-playing and driving better rather than worse.

They are the result of innovation.

 

I really cannot understand why anyone would expect Daniel Roth to apply for a position at an English village-church, but anything is possible I suppose. More importantly, almost no self-respecting organist would ever want to preside over a 6 stop octopod, or even a 20 stop harmonium. That was always the case by the way, and village music was often provided by a local piano-teacher with one (left) leg, even when the organs were first installed.

I’m not sure I understand the bit about longevity. Experience tends to suggest that organists always want to change something whenever an instrument is re-built, and tonal changes are a welcome part of the income of proper organ-builders. They’re still tinkering with the Bavo-orgel at Haarlem almost 300 years on, and most cathedral organs have changed substantially over the decades.

 

As for adding upperwork to instruments never intended for it, some of the best organs I know are exactly that. I’ve mentioned the wonderful organ at Skipton PC (North Yorkshire) before, because this is a supreme example of the art of organ re-building. Early Wordsworth & Maskell pipework obtained second-hand (pre-used), with new upperwork and the hand of a very gifted voicer, resulted in a simply thrilling instrument in the chancel. (The acoustic kills it very quickly, unfortunately).

 

I cannot understand the question as to why an organ may be inappropriate for a building, but an awful lot are. We have a long tradition of utterly terrible-sounding instruments in the UK, produced by many Victorians who were born-again cabinet-makers and sheet metal-workers. Without the few good companies such as Gray & Davison and William Hill, there wouldn’t have been many decent organ-builders who actually served an apprenticeship in organ-building; such was the explosion in demand circa 1850-80. Prior to that, the organ was largely frowned upon in many places, so there was little appreciation for what might constitute a proper tradition or working precedent.

 

Why else did Prince Albert invite Schulze to the Great Exhibition?

 

Why else do the names of Snetzler and Fr Schmidt stand out in English organ-building history?

 

As for an Osmond/Daniels extension organ, I could not possibly comment, because I’ve never played one. I have, on the other hand, played extension organ by Walker, Nicholson and John Compton; the latter especially good, and anything but cheaply made.

 

Still, my final judgement must always be on a musical basis, and if I were to try and answer the question as to whether this or that piece of organ or choral music cannot be performed, I would, I think, find the answer on the maker’s name-plate; combined with the date and the country of origin. Equally, I have played recitals and accompanied good choirs on high-end electronic organs, with quite acceptable musical results. A great Fr. Willis or Wm. Hill would have been preferable, but not to the extent that I feel the need to despise the achievements of the best electronic-organ makers. These organs are what they are, and we are where we are. Life is full of choices.

 

Still, there are real pipe-organ gems, and is important that the good ones are not thrown in a skip and replaced with even the best electronic-organs.

 

MM

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Do I detect a certain lack of enthusiasm for the organs of Percy Daniel? I certainly have not played or heard them all, but undoubtedly one of the finest small organs I have ever encountered was, although a rebuild by them, by far the most successful extension organ in my experience.

 

Regrettably, it is housed in a building which is not open to the general public - the chapel of Papplewick School in Ascot. I was DoM there for 21 years, following Geoffrey Morgan, who designed it. The specification is to be found in NPOR and is worth careful study. I would agree that the Great 8 and 4 flutes, extended from the pedal Bourdon can sound rather dull and the diapason chorus is cheerful without reaching the heights of Willis or Hill; nevertheless, as an instrument for accompaniment it was unsurpassed for its size, with a 16/8ft reed on the swell to kill for. I have always felt it to be the ultimate in design for a small parish church organ. I should also add here that after work done in 1988 there are now 6 pistons per manual and 6 generals with 8 levels of memory.

 

I may well have mentioned it before in this forum, but I would have thought any organists’ association planning a visit in the Ascot region would find the school authorities helpful, the present DoM having come from Inverness, where he was organist of St Andrew’s Cathedral (before the Makin, which was installed under the guidance of his successor, a former member of the Papplewick music staff!). The organ is very well worth a visit.

 

Both Fr Patrick and MM hit the nail on the head, as usual, though I must register some reservations about some of the points raised by Hecklephone. It’s all very well telling the organist to get on and make do with whatever instrument is found in the church; it may well be wise and even admonitory advice that you offer, without doubt, especially if you don’t have to do it yourself Sunday after Sunday. The organ in my own church is quite a sweet toned instrument, while not being anything like worthy of a BIOS certificate; sadly, the action rattles, the pedal naturals are worn through and the only reed is a very unpepperpot oboe - I’ll leave others to guess what sort of pot comes to my mind on the rare occasions that I draw it. Much of the time I use the grand piano to accompany the services and always for the choir items; far from anyone minding, they seems to prefer it in many ways.

 

On the occasions that I have played the Worcester Cathedral Rodgers, I have thought, wistfully, that the noises it produces are so very much better than the ones I have to put up with on our organ. We are, sadly, too poor a parish to contemplate any sort of change in the foreseeable future, so the purist brigade can relax, comforting themselves with the knowledge that I shall continue to be saddled with an organ which is almost impossible to use for proper practice and very limited for the sort of music that I would like to play.

 

David Harrison

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We have so many balancing acts to perform with organs, that I really do now judge on a case by case basis. It is simply impossible to consider any type of instrument as a type and therefore draw a conclusion from that. A I/6 with short compass pedal 16 is, on the face of it, next to useless for repertoire, but I have encountered some exquisite examples. Therefore what to do with those that are? We immediately have a split of opinion. Save it as it is or change it to make it more useful, and all the shades of grey in between. If there is a movement for change, I find myself erring on the side of leaving what is there and adding in such a way as to use the style of the original, the concept of the original, but providing the answers to today's questions. It is easy to identify the instrument, and it can be played as was, but you stand a greater chance, whatever your ability, and whatever the needs of the establishment in which it resides are, of it making some meaningful contribution to proceedings.

 

Pedigree gives direction and focus to the argument, pushing it one way or the other towards an extremity, and sometimes having something basically sound, but of little note is a blessing. To have a free rein as we assumed we had in times past, to change what needs to be changed, and produce a new solution, is a little met situation now. Sometimes however, it's more common, and what we lack from those giving advice is discernment and confidence, and no unspoken agenda.

 

As for electronics, I can countenance them, and indeed have advised people to install one if they don't want to go down the 2nd hand pipe organ route. With regard to what they have, if it's a heap of junk, chuck it out. Don't feel like you're wedded to a load of rubbish, and don't waste your money. An electronic will be the answer to your questions. For the sake of the customer, pussy footing about just isn't good enough.

 

Notwithstanding the contribution above, as for an Osmond/Daniels extension organ well, yes, um ...., the original Vowles was quite nice.

 

AJS

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----------------------------------------------------

 

The analogy of vehicle controls I find amusing and very wrong. I CAN drive a large truck with a non-syncromesh “crash” gearbox using double de-clutching, and even change gear without using the clutch. I can do this without (a) wrecking the transmission or (:D breaking my wrist. I know how to use an “Eaton twin-splitter” gearbox, an old pre-selector change, a conventional high/low transfer box and electronically controlled and computerised gearboxes in “economy” mode, “power” override mode or “semi-automatic” mode. I know how to play around with 16 forward gears and two reverse ratios; not to mention diff-locks, traction control, axle lifters and suspension height controls.

 

MM

 

Very impressive MM; and I thought I knew a bit about vehicles! Are you a lorry driver? There once was an organist of a prestigeous Abbey in the West country who used to drive buses or lorries (cant remember which) for a living. This was a career change after years of music teaching.

 

Back on topic, thanks for the well=balanced response!

 

Richard

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... Are you a lorry driver? There once was an organist of a prestigeous Abbey in the West country who used to drive buses or lorries (cant remember which) for a living.

 

There are probably several similar on here!

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I don't know which two instruments are referred to at the start of the thread, but trigger swells and non-standard pedalboards should not be a hindrance to making music in a parish church any more than different control layouts in different makes of car are a hindrance to getting from A to B.

 

 

Different control layouts are definitely irksome, but the controls to which you refer are not in any way minor. So, to carry your analogy to its proper conclusion, lets put the accellerator pedal in the passenger footwell, the brake in the middle of the transmission tunnel, and hmmm, we'll leave the clutch where it is.

 

While we're at it, for good measure, we'll stick the starting handle on the front (or back) just like the good 'old' days......

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Different control layouts are definitely irksome, but the controls to which you refer are not in any way minor. So, to carry your analogy to its proper conclusion, lets put the accellerator pedal in the passenger footwell, the brake in the middle of the transmission tunnel, and hmmm, we'll leave the clutch where it is.

 

While we're at it, for good measure, we'll stick the starting handle on the front (or back) just like the good 'old' days......

And if you had a 1920s Aston Martin, which has all these features, would you change it so it's just like your Vauxhall Zafira?

 

I wish I had the time and energy to respond to this thread properly, which raises lots of interesting and complex points. The issues surrounding custodianship of an old organ - whether by a local builder or a major name - are far more complex than giving the organist the console he wants and I'm dissappointed to read some of the arguments so far expressed, which lack many of the wider points that need consideration, or are simply inappropriate and nobody has the nous to challenge them. I can't but help feel that if the people who've contributed above (with the exception of Hecklephone) had been responsible for all the organs in the world, such musical gems as the Alkmaar Choir organ, Spanish Baroque organs, Italian Reinassance organs, early English organs would have long since gone and we'd all have electronic simulation organs and all organ consoles would have been standardised. We would have thrown the baby out with the bathwater in our desire for balenced swell pedals and conformity. Discuss.

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The analogy of vehicle controls I find amusing and very wrong. I CAN drive a large truck with a non-syncromesh “crash” gearbox using double de-clutching, and even change gear without using the clutch. I can do this without (a) wrecking the transmission or (:D breaking my wrist. I know how to use an “Eaton twin-splitter” gearbox, an old pre-selector change, a conventional high/low transfer box and electronically controlled and computerised gearboxes in “economy” mode, “power” override mode or “semi-automatic” mode. I know how to play around with 16 forward gears and two reverse ratios; not to mention diff-locks, traction control, axle lifters and suspension height controls.

 

Rest assured that an Osmond or PD effort does not stand up to comparison with a Compton job - not by a long shot. Though Daniels in their earlier days did produce some good workmanlike stuff, and very clever (but expensive) innovations to the whiffle tree swell engine. And a lot of their cabinet work was absolutely first class.

 

I've no malice, bitterness or hostility whatsoever to the electronic industry. Regardless, my belief is that certain sales techniques are disingenuous, and some pipe organ builders could do more in their work and attitude to secure their own futures and make their own craft a bit more quality-conscious. Often it is they who allow the persistence of problems which electronic salesmen prey upon.

 

MM is quite right that my comparison doesn't stand up to the extremes of HGVs such as he illustrates. It might stand up better if you consider the context I meant. I have just returned from abroad where I spent five days each in a Nissan Versa, a Ford Taurus and a Cheverolet Malibu, and each had subtle differences in control location and behaviour. You just adapt. So it is with organs.

 

Generally speaking, you approach an organ and the bottom note of the manuals will either be CC or (rarely) GG; the top will usually be G, A or C. The pedals will be of different construction but the low notes will be on the left, going up in chromatic order. The location of stops - left or right, top or bottom - and which swell pedal does what will vary enormously, as it varies between modern cathedral instruments. But the fact that at Winchester the Swell pedal is the left-most and at Salisbury it's the right doesn't make either inferior or obsolete, it's just something you adapt to, like where the windscreen wiper switch is.

 

As for themythes' comments, fair enough - but, a rattly action and worn-out pedals are all things which can be fixed, in the case of the rattles probably very quickly (hours) and at very low cost. As for my "admonishing advice" coming from a position of not having to do it Sunday by Sunday, I am very happy to, and spend most of the working week doing just that. I take part in about 25-30 concerts a year on top of 4-5 services a week, frequently with no rehearsal, and having to do slightly ambitious things like playing a trio sonata on a 1 manual organ (note to self - check NPOR before sending in solos for programme) and keep choral accompaniments interesting for 70 minutes on a 6 stop 2 manual. So I know that perceived limitations can be overcome in order for music to be made, with neither blistering whizz-kid talent nor fistfuls of stops and buttonware at my disposal.

 

"The sort of music I would like to play" and being "saddled" with an instrument "impossible to use for proper practice" are, in my view, putting the cart before the horse. Never mind what you want - what does the parish need, and what can it afford and sustain? What happens when you're not there any more, whether that's next year or in 40 years' time? (You'll go through at least 2 electronics in that time, if it's the latter.) Can you not find anywhere in a 10 mile radius which is suitable for "proper" practice, or build a cheap Hauptwerk setup for a couple of hundred quid for home practice? Or could you spend some time with different organ builders, exploring what can be done on a shoestring to make the organ you already have better by putting right long-established and possibly maintenance-induced faults?

 

There are always (well, almost always) ways to improve without radical, expensive or irreversible change, or throwing the baby out with the bath water.

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Interesting views as always on this thread.

 

What makes a rebuild "work" or an organbuilder "great"? I suggest partly it's being able to take 2 + 2 and create 5. I can't imagine our kind hosts would feel very enthusiastic if asked to rip out 90% of the innards of St Paul's Cathedral and replace it with an exact replica of Father Smith's instrument in the name of progress.

 

But mad as that sounds, is it a million miles away from the decision to retune Reading Town Hall and replace the balanced swell pedal with a kickstand (deliberate vehicle there analogy!)?

 

Part of the skill of the consummate builder is to take something that seems unpromising and turn it into something quite magical. But then that depends on how you define unpromising to begin with. It also depends on how far you think it's reasonable to preserve historicity at all cost.

 

I wouldn't advocate fitting electropneumatic action or even a blower to the organ of Carisbrooke castle. I don't like the swell pedal at Blenheim Palace, though I'd frown on anyone who installed a balanced pedal. And I don't think any sensible person would add a multichannel combination system with sequencer to replace the four (I think) pistons per manual that it currently has, even though that limits registration changes. In other words, a degree of standardisation is helpful though there is still room for some diversity.

 

So how "bad" or inflexible does an organ have to be before it's appropriate to invite a rebuild taking it well beyond its original capacity? What determines if a particular instrument merits historical preservation without regards to musical lfexibility? Why do we love that five manual monster at St Pauls if once upon a time a 27 stop three manual with hitch-down pedals was considered adequate for the building? Maybe, because Father Willis managed to create something wonderful out of what materials he had available from his predecessor?

 

Of course, there are times and seasons too. I expect twenty years ago many more people with an ageing and failing Compton extension organ would have been tempted to throw it out. I was amazed how much I found I liked the organ of Derby Cathedral when I got to play it a few years ago, imagining it to be "just another old extension organ". Now we are perhaps more tolerant of styles that a generation ago would have been shunned. I think also of the old 3 manual norman and Beard at a church I used to play at; falling to pieces and generally unloved, I had little time for it. Until that is, a mile up the road, Manders did a spectacular restoration of, you guessed it, an untouched N&B of similar size and vintage, at which point I really appreciated what my own instrument had once been capable of that much more.

 

I don't have Hauptwerk but have been following this "development" with interest. And I am struck by the wide range of examples of home practice instruments that people have built. Some go for brawns and the ability to play many different fine organs. Others want consoles with short pedals, 49 note manuals and are content to install a small Silberman sample set with short compass that limits your choice of repertoire and in which playing aids are non-existent. If you ever go down that route yourself, which option would you pick?

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Part of the skill of the consummate builder is to take something that seems unpromising and turn it into something quite magical. But then that depends on how you define unpromising to begin with. It also depends on how far you think it's reasonable to preserve historicity at all cost.

 

Yes yes yes yes yes.

 

I'm not sure where I stand on historicity at all costs. I think that, this week, it's something like this - how dare any one of us attempt to modify, add to or discard anything to, of or from an existing organ without having taken every possible care to understand, restore and respect the original aspects of the work first, however flawed first opinion might suggest it is.

 

The trouble is, the number of builders who appear capable of doing so is far smaller than it ought to be. The number of builders prepared to do so to the necessary fullest extent is even smaller still.

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Yes yes yes yes yes.

 

I'm not sure where I stand on historicity at all costs. I think that, this week, it's something like this - how dare any one of us attempt to modify, add to or discard anything to, of or from an existing organ without having taken every possible care to understand, restore and respect the original aspects of the work first, however flawed first opinion might suggest it is.

 

The trouble is, the number of builders who appear capable of doing so is far smaller than it ought to be. The number of builders prepared to do so to the necessary fullest extent is even smaller still.

 

Just to throw a small spanner in the works, an approach like this is often the invitation that organ custodians need to install an electronic instrument. I could, although I will not, list countless places that have seriously considered, and/or done just that when faced with a limited instrument. This is where discernment, knowledge, experience not just of organs but of reading situations, and judgement tempered with reality and responsibility come to the fore.This is a case by case approach.

 

I would like to see an end to the use of the term untouched or similar as it is entirely unsupportable, but rather rankles the historic organ brigade upon which they place a great deal of their argument. It may seem on a macroscopic level to be the case, but on a microscopic level it holds as much water as a sieve. You just cannot know everything that has been done to an organ by the builders since it was installed.

 

It's very easy to argue on the side of respect and conservation, but it is also a bit of a risk averse attitude. You'll never be condemned, but, and this is where scrutiny moves to an entirely different level, and not everyone has the stomach for the argument, have you done the best thing for the people as well as the organ. An organ can stand as good, if not a better chance of survival and promotion if it has the support of people than it does just for being there. This is not just a debate about organs, and that is something I think DAC's are well aware of, but not all organ supporters are.

 

Apparently untouched examples of pedigree instruments are now generally excluded from the arguments, so custodians have what they have and if not already the case, need to learn and be proud of and responsible for what they have. Many are, and the organ is encouraged and promoted. This debate is not solely to do with organs, but is repeated across many spheres of involvement in such things as historic buildings, classic cars, historic landscapes and so on. This issues pro and con are remarkably similar. Education to a sufficiently high level is part of the argument. However, there are degrees of argument and the process is complex when reaching a solution. Custodians don't have to do as they have been advised, and indeed, I have heard many times, particularly from competent organists, that they would rather have an electronic that facilitates them to play, as they see it, proper music in the right sort of way, than do battle with a pipe organ that seems only to hinder them and does little for the worship in the church, or the entertainment of the audience. No amount of expert advice explaining to them how special their pipe organ is will make much difference. The reply regularly comes back 'Yes, yes I know all that, but it's of no use to me or the church'. Lo and behold, an electronic is installed, and the pipe organ sits, redundant, in the corner gathering dust, as if in a cheap museum. This is as much reality as the restoration and preservation of other instruments which it is very easy to laud.

 

I'll draw a parallel to illustrate my point. Should every 1920's Rolls Royce be restored and preserved? Probably, virtually exclusively yes. Should every untouched 1970's ford escort be treated similarly? I suggest not, and furthermore, I suggest that the classic car world would be a lot less rich if they were.

 

AJS

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Just to throw a small spanner in the works, an approach like this is often the invitation that organ custodians need to install an electronic instrument.

 

Morning

 

I'm not sure I understand what part of my post you are referring to.

 

It seems eminently sensible to, for instance, get fully to grips with ciphers, noisy, heavy and uneven actions, irregular couplers, dirt in pipework, poor positioning and leaky reservoirs before deciding that a horizontal trumpet is just what the job needs.

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I'm not sure where I stand on historicity at all costs. I think that, this week, it's something like this - how dare any one of us attempt to modify, add to or discard anything to, of or from an existing organ without having taken every possible care to understand, restore and respect the original aspects of the work first, however flawed first opinion might suggest it is.

 

I was going to join in this discussion yesterday, about regardless of how helpful, constructive and well thought through the advice of the local organ adviser is (of which we had two when there was a change of personnel) and how much the church/organist and congregation agree with the said advice, when you are ready tomove forward, you come across a really unmovable organisation with little regard for the needs of the parish concerned, I am not going to mention them by name. However, Heckelphone has done the job for me and his quote above is, I believe, the motto for the said organisation. I would go further and say that there is scant regard for how flawed the original design for an organ may have been.

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Morning

 

I'm not sure I understand what part of my post you are referring to.

 

It seems eminently sensible to, for instance, get fully to grips with ciphers, noisy, heavy and uneven actions, irregular couplers, dirt in pipework, poor positioning and leaky reservoirs before deciding that a horizontal trumpet is just what the job needs.

 

Yes, if you are interested, can be bothered to, can afford it, and the underlying construction is sufficiently sound. These are big ifs for a lot of communities and organs. For those for whom any one of the above is a sufficient stumbling block, an electronic is a simple, quick one step solution to an often pressing problem. For horizontal trumpets see the family service.

 

AJS

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I'll draw a parallel to illustrate my point. Should every 1920's Rolls Royce be restored and preserved? Probably, virtually exclusively yes. Should every untouched 1970's ford escort be treated similarly? I suggest not, and furthermore, I suggest that the classic car world would be a lot less rich if they were.

 

AJS

 

 

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

 

You've obviously never driven an original Ford Escort RS1800 as I have. They are now as rare as hen's teeth, and should be restored to the last detail.

 

Absolutely iconic, and more fun per mile than anything built to-day. B)

 

MM

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