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T C Lewis & Thomas Hill


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I think sometimes there are rules laid down by Dean and Chapter, and sometimes the pressure may get too much, but generally it's a shame when custodians of famous organs decline to allow others near them. I believe that many years ago when the Organ Club went to York Minster, Francis Jackson insisted that every member try the organ, even those who couldn't play. Freddie Symonds, the secretary (a non-player), told me that even he had to sit on the stool and hold down a chord. My own experience, at the age of fourteen was 'of course you may come and play the organ'. I sat up in the loft while Francis accompanied Evensong (an experience that is still vivid in my mind) and afterwards he let me loose. I had similar experiences with the likes of Allan Wicks and Simon Lindley. I resolved then that if I ever had an large or important instrument in my charge, I would let people play it, and I've always stuck to that.

 

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

 

During his tenure at York, "Francis" gained an enviable following, not only due to his superlative ability as an organist, but also by means of he being the perfect gentleman who was never unapproachable. Another organist who welcomed people to the organ console to play, was the late Dr Leslie Paul at Bangor cathedral, and at the age of fourteen, when I had barely started to play the organ, he was charming and encouraging in equal measure.

 

Sometimes, these "stolen moments" are vitally important to the young, and I probabl only ever played the organ because a kindly curate asked me if I wanted to try and play something.

 

MM

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I resolved then that if I ever had an large or important instrument in my charge, I would let people play it, and I've always stuck to that.

 

I have not tried asking much over here recently but on trips to France I have always been made welcome even at fairly important venues.

 

A

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I have not tried asking much over here recently but on trips to France I have always been made welcome even at fairly important venues.

 

A

 

There seems to be an unexplainable level of 'snobbery' over certain organs, in that few if any outside the world of celebrity are allowed near the 'holy place' that is the console! What harm could possibly be done by anyone at all, no matter what standard thay are at, having a go. It might even inspire some to greater things, and yet so often they are ignored.

 

A request to visit one famous place by our Association was answered with "you would be welcome to come up and look at the console, but not to play!". Needless to say, we didn't bother going there!

 

CP

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There seems to be an unexplainable level of 'snobbery' over certain organs, in that few if any outside the world of celebrity are allowed near the 'holy place' that is the console! What harm could possibly be done by anyone at all, no matter what standard thay are at, having a go. It might even inspire some to greater things, and yet so often they are ignored.

 

A request to visit one famous place by our Association was answered with "you would be welcome to come up and look at the console, but not to play!". Needless to say, we didn't bother going there!

 

CP

 

 

Whilst 99% of console visitors behave impecably - sometimes showing people round and letting others on can have it's problems, and I think this can lead to the hostilities of some custodians

 

Here are a few examples from my time at Edinburgh...

 

At St. Mary's Cathedral an organ association full of lovely people came to have a go, but one old dithering chap managed to break off one of the thumb pistons! This was highly annoying in the weeks that followed until it got replaced - which required the keyboards to be dismantled! Another visiting organist at St. Mary's decided to create his own light shield and selotape it to the light fixture above the console which was both unecessary and annoying.

 

But the worst atrocity I've ever come across a visiting organist doing was in the Reid Consort Hall at Edinburgh. The fabulous Ahrend organ designed in the 70's by Peter Williams is by its very nature a rather uncompromising instrument. Trying to tell visitors wanting to use the hall that you can't really accompany romantic choral repertoire on it is difficult (it is north german in design to the very last letter- no swell box) Anyway.... someone (obviously a sandwich short of a picnic) decided to attach a mirror to the case to see past the ruckpositive behind the player- WITH NAILS!!!!! When the university organist saw this after the event a full investigation was made and the culprit said he hadn't removed it because it may have been of use to others in the future. He was told it was vandalism of the worst kind and banned from the department indefinately!

 

So there we go - I know most people are much more responsible than that, but there's a horror story for you. I'll never forget how the university organist described it on the phone to me... ' He's...... naaaaaiiiiillllled with naaaaaiiiiiilllllss!!!!!!!!

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I'll never forget how the university organist described it on the phone to me... ' He's...... naaaaaiiiiillllled with naaaaaiiiiiilllllss!!!!!!!!

 

Indeed Apalling. But is this so very different from what most of us in 'the trade' see on a daily basis: white, plastic bulb holders, lighting switches, both white-covered and plain copper 'Pyrotenax' cable, screwed with round headed screws (usually of the wrong gauge, resulting in the splitting of the plastic) into extremely venerable quarter-sawn oak or mahogany music desks, drawstop jambs etc.?

 

I was told only yesterday of an instance of a call-out for a fault: "The (mechanical) swell box isn't working!". An electrician had run a cable right across the swell front, cable-clipping it to each shutter in turn. SOLID!

 

I saw a few days ago one of the nicest early Wordsworth & Co (Leeds) organ that I've seen, very much as it was built, but the CONSOLE!!!! It's like Blackpool illuminations! all of this carried out with 100w pearl lightbulbs in the aforesaid white plastic holders screwed on to the soffit and kneeboard and controlled by a lovely 4-inch-square, white plastic switch on a two-inch-deep backbox. To top off this oeuvre extraordaire ..... a mirror held in place in the middle of the (formerly) lovely Walnut music desk by a 2 1/2" no 14, black-japanned roundhead screw and, to the left, a white plastic speaker box.

 

WHY?

 

DW :o

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Indeed Apalling. But is this so very different from what most of us in 'the trade' see on a daily basis: white, plastic bulb holders, lighting switches, both white-covered and plain copper 'Pyrotenax' cable, screwed with round headed screws (usually of the wrong gauge, resulting in the splitting of the plastic) into extremely venerable quarter-sawn oak or mahogany music desks, drawstop jambs etc.?

 

I was told only yesterday of an instance of a call-out for a fault: "The (mechanical) swell box isn't working!". An electrician had run a cable right across the swell front, cable-clipping it to each shutter in turn. SOLID!

 

I saw a few days ago one of the nicest early Wordsworth & Co (Leeds) organ that I've seen, very much as it was built, but the CONSOLE!!!! It's like Blackpool illuminations! all of this carried out with 100w pearl lightbulbs in the aforesaid white plastic holders screwed on to the soffit and kneeboard and controlled by a lovely 4-inch-square, white plastic switch on a two-inch-deep backbox. To top off this oeuvre extraordaire ..... a mirror held in place in the middle of the (formerly) lovely Walnut music desk by a 2 1/2" no 14, black-japanned roundhead screw and, to the left, a white plastic speaker box.

 

WHY?

 

DW :o

 

I have seen consoles in all states, with varying degrees of vandalism carried out by (we hope) ignorant but well-intentioned people. The one that still sticks in my mind most, thinking back, is the Brindley and Foster organ at Christ Church, Little Drayton, Shropshire.

http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N06611

 

I am pleased to find that it now bears a BIOS certificate, it certainly warrants one.

However...as it was in the mid 1970s when the late Dr.Michael Sayer (he of BIOS and a splendid book about Samuel Renn) was organist there...

I still find it difficult to believe that such an experienced man in organ matters could possibly do what he did, but I swear it's true.

 

The stop jambs were over-painted in matt black paint, and everything was renamed in red dymo tape with German names.

 

Changing the subject slightly:

Isn't it a sort of vandalism when the original maker's plate has been removed in order to make room for one courtesy of a later builder who wishes to claim a fine organ as his own? I hate it when that happens.

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I was told only yesterday of an instance of a call-out for a fault: "The (mechanical) swell box isn't working!". An electrician had run a cable right across the swell front, cable-clipping it to each shutter in turn. SOLID!

 

DW :o

 

What's the betting that when the organist explained this situation to the church authorities, (s)he received a response something along the lines of,

 

''But we can't afford to have the electricians back. Do you really need to use the swell pedal?"

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What's the betting that when the organist explained this situation to the church authorities, (s)he received a response something along the lines of,

 

''But we can't afford to have the electricians back. Do you really need to use the swell pedal?"

 

 

Actually, as the law now stands (SFAIK) this is one case where you would have to call back the electrician because you'd not be allowed to sort out the problem for yourself. Anyone is legally permitted to fiddle with their own (domestic) electrics, but recent legislation prevents anyone who is not properly qualified dabbling with main electrics anywhere else.

 

Happy the congregation that contains qualified tradesmen happy to work for nothing*.

 

[A beatitude that somehow got missed by our beloved leader.]

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  • 2 weeks later...

Just to make a late addendum, I yesterday went with Mrs H. to hear James Scott play the T.C. Lewis in Southwark Cathedral. This was the first time that I had heard the instrument in the flesh, as it were, and it's difficult to over-emphasise what a glorious sound it makes. James played a real variety of repertoire, including Howells which sounded magnificent and the organ suited it all beautifully.

 

The Great Organ principal chorus simply sparkles, the solo reeds blend beautifully, being clear but without overpowering the chorus, and the French-style pedal reeds top it off (bottom it off, I suppose...) magnificently.

 

It's such an easy journey from here I shall certainly go quite regularly. The lunchtime food in the refectory is good too and it's nice to be able to support them rather than one of the myriad commercial enterprises nearby.

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