Jump to content
Mander Organs

Rah Organ Facade Pipes


contraviolone

Recommended Posts

I think the view here Mark is that we should all be grateful that money was found to 'restore' the instrument. There isn't much interest really in the Organ here, or Organ music in general for that matter, so really the 'tone set' so far is that we should all 'be grateful' for what's been done.

 

I think when societies or cultures fall short of doing something, (and this can be anything), it really is a very interesting insight into the fabric of that culture. I'm not a psychologist, or sociologist for that matter, but this particular attitude to the display pipes (i.e. if cleaned or polished would 'detract' the audience when listening to other events etc), is a very interesting insight into the workings of the British musical/cultural 'intelligentsia'. Where you find energy and vision, say, in the majority of other countries (not only the 'New World' like Australia or the States, but Continental Europe as well), there would be no problem in restoring the case and pipes in full, I am sure. But in Britain there is a 'stifling conservatism' that runs through many aspects of our cultural activities, particularly the 'Organ World.' It really does seem to collect a very strange collection of people, many with the outllook of a Britain before 1939, a world long since gone. Hence I believe the strange attitude to the display pipes. It represents a great example of the attitude of mind of 'falling short of doing the job properly', of refusing to 'go the extra mile', a sort of introverted process where you are deliberately 'shooting yourself in the foot' for the sake of it. This runs through, with varying degrees, the entire fabric of the so-called cultural 'intelligentsia' of British society.

 

If we keep the Royal Albert Hall organ within this discussion, we could go further and argue further points regarding the 'restoration', over and above the display pipes. I think Mander Organs have done a great job in this refurbishment, and given the scale of the project have done a tremendous job in delivering the completed project within the Terms and Conditions set. But I would argue that the original Terms and Conditions are, again, an interesting insight into the inate 'conservatism' of the British 'intelligentsia'. I think a great opportunity was lost when it was decided to restore the instrument 'as is', without any reference to the underlying tonal imbalances of the instrument, due in main not only to problems with the acoustics of the Hall, but also due to previous rebuilds of the instrument, conducted with the aim to overcome this 'imbalance.' The main premise of course of the original Terms and Conditions was 'preservation' of the existing instrument, not a bad idea as such, but only if an instrument is worth preserving, given that it should have a unique balance of ensemble actually worth preserving in the first place! Interestingly enough, buried within this framework of 'preservation', room was found to add a IV Fourniture to the Great. Further still, some of the octave couplers were deleted! But if you listen to the organ today, it certainly sounds superb, but only up to a certain level of fortissimo. Once you enter into the realms of the grand tutti do you realise that the shortcomings of the instrument reveal themselves. The Pedal is now in a state of 'imbalance' with the manual plein jeu and reeds, and going further from this is now virtually obliterated in the ff statements. Such is the wisdom of restoring an instrument 'extant' when additions /alterations have been made over time, particularly with reference to poor acoustics and a constantly inadequate wind! Strange indeed that the obvious inadequate scaling of the 32' Reed was not addressed?

 

The result is a very good organ, but one which falls short of greatness. Given the scale of the work undertaken, the project cost of 1.75Million seems like a bargain to me. But I wonder what would have happened if cost was not the main consideration? And if the 'inate conservatism' of the 'British Organ Intelligentsia' was not prevalent? We will never know.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well David,

 

I believe that if the english situation is less disastrous than the belgian one, it is precisely for that reason: Conservatism.

 

In the judgment of any organ, be it its balance or whatever else, we should think we are not alone; the previous generations had other tastes, and the ones that will follow us will have even other tastes. It is so since the very first instrument was build.

 

So I strongly believe we need to exercise utmost care when deciding what to *do* or *not to do*.

 

Take my area here in southern Belgium: 80% of the organs to be found here are neo-classical rebuilts of romantic organs which themselves followed ancient ones. What should I promote now? Having them rebuilt as neo-romantic organs?

 

Respectful restaurations, even with "hybrid" organs, avoid the risk to lose even more of what remains of our heritage, and such works will ever gain my vote, be the result to my taste or not.

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Thank you, David.

I certainly appreciate the thoughts in your very constructive and informative reply. It is difficult for me, reading from this distance, not to sit dumbfounded as I have read some postings. It is also easy for me to write an opinion whilst not understanding all the facts. I suspect, however, that contained in your reply, whether by accident or design, are the answers to so much else of what I have read earlier on this and other topics.

 

I cannot, howver, really accept that a nation so busily engaged in restoring and preserving everything in sight so beautifully to how it was, would just shut the door on pipe organs. On e only has to look around such diverse locations as Covent Garden, The Foreign and Commonwealth offices, the reconstruction at Windsor Castle, evn to the Crich Tram Museum and HMS Victory to know there is a great pride running through the whole of the UK. The Cathedrals, Greenwich, the stately homes, along with the myriads of tiny establishments and private properties, do not enjoy their current pride in ownership and breath-taking condition as a result of apathy.

 

Why, then, the organ. My immediate reaction is to consider the endless correspondence in organ magazines and wonder what is the point beyond grand-standing? Why not actually let the wider community know of your concerns? Consider the successful outcome in the movie 'The Choir'. I appreciate, that from an English perspective, we Australians are considered crass, but in Sydney, the topic of the RAH facade pipes would by now have reached such proportions, via the talk-back radio, current affairs television reporting and letters to the editor, in the daily papers, that the powers-that-be at RAH would long ago have gone scurrying for their chequebooks, just to stop the phone-calls.

 

Why, in a country so renowned through history for standing up for its rights, has the organ dropped off the agenda? To me, the answer may lie in the fact that the organ is probably never spoken of in the real world, only the organ publications, read by organists and organ-lovers.

 

Given the state of apparent apathy as you describe, have you not possibly given up your right to expect a British organ at RCO?

 

The English organ periodicals are full of organ-builders' advertisements and details of what would appear to be a very active industry. Am I mistaken? Like you, David, I grieve for some of the things that happen in organ building in the name of restoration. I have not yet heard the RAH organ post restoration, but was alerted by your comments and concerns for this instrument. I have absolutely no doubt as to the quality and detail of the work that JPM and his team have lavished on it; my doubts are with the details of the overall plan and whoever was at the the helm in deciding what and what not would be undertaken, and why. Many earlier postings raised questions in my mind. Why does it always seem necessary to fiddle with the integrity of something. I have made my point clear on that topic in this country and am certainly not expecting to be heard in the UK. Much of what is carried out previously in some organs, in the name of improvemnt, was ill-conceived; and so the exercise continues, on and on, merely stamping someone else's personality on the hapless instrument. I have copies of 'The Organ' that scream absolute indignation at the ruination of the RAH organ following its first rebuild. I wasn't around then and I don't know, but it seems the die was cast more than 80 years ago.

 

I guess that I won't ever understand how anybody is prepared to condone the dull drabness of huge organ pipes in surroundings so 'pavillioned in splendour' and so breath-taking. Had the RAH restored the facade and pipes as part of the room and ignored the organ inside, I could have well understood; and that, surely, would have been a more typical bureaucratic move. The current situation is impossible for me to fathom.

 

Thank you again.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Mark,

 

G'day mate and thanks for your intelligent posting. You make some very interesting points.

 

You wonder why the airwaves are not blue with outrage that the RAH facade pipes are not to be restored to their original brilliance. Part of the problem is that the Albert Hall is in London, and in such a big city with so many things going on, a matter of whether some organ pipes are restored or not is just not going to be important enough for anyone to be interested. You have to remember that London is more a country than a city, and has the population to prove it.

 

No, were a similiar situation to arise in say Birmingham concerning the facade pipes of the Town Hall Organ, or Liverpool's Willis organ in St George's Hall, then it is more than likely such an issue could and up being debated in the local paper and radio stations. In London? No chance.

 

But getting back to the Albert Hall and the argument that shiny organ pipes might prove to be a distraction. Perhaps there is a case that in the Tennis Masters, just as John McEnroe was serving at match point, he could be dazzled by light shining off an organ pipe. It would certainly be a a novel excuse compared to the usual blandishments of blind line judges. You cannot be serious??? But seriously, only the other night I caught the National Television Awards on the TV from the Albert Hall. There was no sign of ANY organ pipes as they had built a horrible set in front of the organ. The only organ on display that night was the one flashed at Sharon and Ozzy Osbourne by an interloper. :blink:

 

Jeremy Jones

Link to post
Share on other sites

I think Pierre makes a very good point regarding organ 'preservation'. I think this is very important as well, given as I said that the overall balance and integrity of the instrument is worth preserving in the first place! if you look at many of the Mander Organs restorations (see Portfolio) it can be seen that many recent additions (and earlier mistakes!) in various instrument have been stripped away, to reveal the instrument as perhaps 'first intended.' In the case of the RAH organ, this would be impossible anyway, given the extensive Harrison revisions in the 1920's and 30's. The point I was merely trying to make here is certainly preserve the Organ as it stands, but do not hesitate to correct any major deficiencies. Hence one alteration that was made (the IV rank fourniture to extend the Great 'Secondary'), so strengthening the chorus upperwork.

 

If Father Willis were alive today, I am sure he would be impressed with the restoration of the RAH organ. But I agree with Mark that he would not be impressed with the failure to clean the facade pipes. And I think Jeremy in a nutshell really sums up the whole attitude to the organ here. It really doesn't rank to any great importance at all. And the number of times I've attended the Hall to listen to other events, and the Organ is either obliterated by the Sound Canopy or covered up by boardings altogether! The organ has a very small following here in such a large and diverse population, and really doesn't get the support it deserves. It is really seen as a relic of a bygone era. And those who 'run the show' in the organ world are just as Mark describes, living in their own world to satisfy their own ends. This is probably excusable in a church context, but I'm not sure if it holds true in the commercial world? We do, after all, go along and actually pay money to listen to an event at such secular places as the RAH. Following the simple theories of supply/demand and consumer choice, should we not all, as paying customers, have a say in the cleaning of the display pipes?

This, I believe, is the real crux of the problem, and where I think the decision-makers on the cleaning of the pipes have got it terribly wrong.

Link to post
Share on other sites

Well, a week has passed since the discussion ended on the topic with the largest number of replies and by far the largest number of visits.

 

I wonder how many of you and your friends have, in the last week, written to the RAH to suggest they re-think their decision on the facade pipes.

 

I once read that the BBC went into meltdown when 6 people wrote, after a programme was taken off the air.

 

If someone would care to forward me an address, I would be very happy to add my name to those corresponding. As an organbuilder specialising in restoration and reconstruction, I am duty bound to at least say something. The facade has been the most visual part of the Hall's interior for well over 100 years and they've probably never noticed that these pipes produce a much better 16-20 hertz than any of their speaker systems.

 

The Alexandra Palace is as good as lost. Maybe it just might be time to actually do something for the other grand facade.

 

Mark Fisher

Link to post
Share on other sites
I think this is a good idea Mark. I am quite happy for everyone to forward to me by email perhaps a letter supporting the restoration of these facade pipes..... I can then gather the replies, add my own, then post them off to ...

 

Experience of running a pressure group (that did eventually attain its goal) suggests to me that, when trying to persuade institutions of the error of their ways, the most powerful lever is public embarrassment. May I respectfully suggest, therefore, that you (openly) copy the replies, together with the covering letter to the RAH that you will probably write to send with them, to

 

HM The Queen (because it is the Royal Albert Hall, address the letter to her Private Secretary)

The Secretary for Culture, Media & Sport (because the RAH belongs to the whole nation)

 

and write personally-signed letters to the Great And Good in the organ world (composers, organists, etc), with a short clear explanation, asking for their support.

 

If you receive any particularly well-worded replies from the Great and Good, contact the writer to ask for his/her permission to copy these to the responsible press. Newspapers love letters from celebrities. In our personality-obsessed world, letters of support from celebrities count with the media far more than a ton of petition signatures.

 

It took our pressure group about a year to win - I feel sure that you can do it in much less time. Hope this helps.

Link to post
Share on other sites
Well done, Ye.

 

Now we're up and running. You may count on a letter from me, Mark. As suggested by Benbow, I will also search out the Great and Good from this part of the world and see what can be achieved.

 

Mark Fisher

 

Could I suggest also that, when writing to the Great and Good, keep it simple -

 

1 explain that the RAH organ has recently been beautifully refurbished (in case your addressee has been on another planet in recent months);

2 quote from some of people's highly positive reactions (on this discussion board and elsewhere) to the glorious sound of the refurbished organ;

3 add that, for some reason, the refurbishment did not include the organ pipes;

4 and that, incomprehensibly, the "reason" given by the RAH for this omission is that shiny pipes will distract people helplessly from the music (nothing about costing too much);

5 conclude by saying that here, as in many things, it would seem that if a job is worth doing it is worth doing well, and politely ask if they would support the attempt to persuade the RAH to change its mind about cleaning the pipes.

 

The point about (5) is to show that you are not asking them to sign up to anything flaky that might embarrass them later rather than something that will bring them public kudos. I mean, "if a job is worth doing, it is worth doing well" is a maxim that has stood the test of time; and nothing could be more reasonable than asking the RAH to finish the job. (I am sure that you would not ask the Great and Good for money, as that would be counterproductive.)

 

Identify and capture the "moral high ground" at the outset, like this, I would suggest. If the web (as distinct from the Internet) had been available when I was last running a pressure group, we'd have won in six months. Hope this helps.

Link to post
Share on other sites
  • 9 months later...

On a more serious note, I would like to endose the above comments made. I am happy to add my voice (well, my handwriting) to support any public protest.

 

What an absurd reason! It could just as easily be argued that shiny new pipes - and freshly-painted casework - will help to occupy members of the audience during those boring, slow, quiet moments of certain orchestral works. In addition, they might actually be impressed.

 

What I think no-one has so far mentioned, is that the average 'man-in-the-street' will probably not notice much difference in the sound of the organ - save that it might be a little louder. His ears will not be attuned to pick out the sparkling new Fourniture on th GO or the impressive liquid fire of the restored tuba ranks.

 

However, if he could behold a gloriously-restored façade, with gleaming pipes and woodwork, he might actually begin to appreciate the restoration of the instrument.

 

I do not know how the work was funded but, if any of it came from the public purse, as it were, then people generally want to see that they are getting something for their money.

 

However, whilst as I have said, I am happy to lend my support to any official protest, I have no intention of chaining myself to railings in Kensington Gore until such time as the organ case is restored....

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Roffensis
On a more serious note, I would like to endose the above comments made. I am happy to add my voice (well, my handwriting) to support any public protest.

 

What an absurd reason! It could just as easily be argued that shiny new pipes - and freshly-painted casework - will help to occupy members of the audience during those boring, slow, quiet moments of certain orchestral works. In addition, they might actually be impressed.

 

What I think no-one has so far mentioned, is that the average 'man-in-the-street' will probably not notice much difference in the sound of the organ - save that it might be a little louder. His ears will not be attuned to pick out the sparkling new Fourniture on th GO or the impressive liquid fire of the restored tuba ranks.

 

However, if he could behold a gloriously-restored façade, with gleaming pipes and woodwork, he might actually begin to appreciate the restoration of the instrument.

 

I do not know how the work was funded but, if any of it came from the public purse, as it were, then people generally want to see that they are getting something for their money.

 

However, whilst as I have said, I am happy to lend my support to any official protest, I have no intention of chaining myself to railings in Kensington Gore until such time as the organ case is restored....

Link to post
Share on other sites
At the time of writing, I gather that it may yet be open to the RAH to opt for "the full way", without losing face or wasting money or doing something that looks like "mission creep".  Would people here feel able to write to the organ press, magazines such as The Organists' Review , Choir and Organ  and maybe The Organ  as well?  And, as this is topical, a letter to the Times of London maybe as well?

 

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

 

Dear Mr Blair,

 

You of all people will be aware of the need to maintain a squeaky-clean facade and retain a polished-image. Your shining example has been an inspiration to us all....etc etc

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites
Guest Barry Oakley
================

 

Dear Mr Blair,

 

You of all people will be aware of the need to maintain a squeaky-clean facade and retain a polished-image. Your shining example has been an inspiration to us all....etc etc

 

MM

 

What does this ridiculous statement mean. I don't want an answer and suggest that all political references be kept out of this website!

Link to post
Share on other sites
What does this ridiculous statement mean. I don't want an answer and suggest that all political references be kept out of this website!

 

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

 

I always like people who make statements.

 

Actually, it was a reference to "a letter to the Times" and not politically inspired at all.

 

I see Ted Heath died.....wasn't he an organ scholar? ;-)

 

MM

Link to post
Share on other sites

[

What an absurd reason! It could just as easily be argued that shiny new pipes - and freshly-painted casework - will help to occupy members of the audience during those boring, slow, quiet moments of certain orchestral works. In addition, they might actually be impressed.

 

 

I understand one of the chief objectors to any repolishing of the front pipes has been the BBC, on the grounds that it will spoil their spurious and silly kinetic lighting effects which have been a feature of their televised broadcasts from the Proms this year and which have been maddeningly distracting for the audience in the Hall itself.

 

Since the Proms must provide a large slice of the RAH's annual revenue, it is presumably difficult to gainsay such arguments.

 

JS

Link to post
Share on other sites

Archived

This topic is now archived and is closed to further replies.

×
×
  • Create New...