Simon Walker Posted February 25, 2011 Share Posted February 25, 2011 I love old organs. In fact I'm positively mad about historic instruments. I can't get enough and love going around the local villages to home and making new discoveries. The historic certificate system is a great idea, and it makes sure we are aware of our organ heritage and will help to encourage a serious amount of thought behind any proposed restoration or modification. I'm glad to see that many people have been working hard to promote this and prevent some of the vandalism which did go on in previous decades. However... has some of this gone too far? The following link goes to the page prepared by the organ adviser of County Durham. http://www.duresme.org.uk/NEorgans/dur_organs.htm It lists organs in the Diocese and comments on their status - historic or not historic. Most of the instruments he has recommended for a BIOS certificate has now got one listed in the NPOR records. "Of approx. 232 pipe organs in 293 churches in the Durham diocese, this provisional assessment finds some 62% of the organs notable or worthy, as follows: Grade I = 18 organs [8%] Grade II* = 34 organs [15%] Grade II = c.85 organs Cert.of Recognition for pre-1850 cases and/or known historic pipework = 4 organs" This is great stuff - County Durham has lots of old, largely unmolested instruments. Most are small, as the north has never been that wealthy, but the quality is normally good. However is this really a historic instrument? http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N14963 And this - http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N14949 And this - http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N14957 And if those are included why isn't this rather lovely Binns organ? (which I have played and loved it) http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N04230 Indeed it is not the only Binns organ in the survey without a recommendation for a certificate. (Certainly there are similar Binns organs in other parts of the Country with certificates like the one At St. Thomas Great Junction Street, Leith, Edinburgh recently up for sale) Anyhow, the purpose of this post isn't to have a go at the choices of organs made here to be recommended for certificates, but rather to question - what make an instrument historic? I see every reason to list instruments which are remarkable for whatever reason, but when they're just old small instruments, and there are many other better examples by the same builder surviving - why bother? And what if the church in question suddenly has a requirement and resources for a better instrument? Take for instance my first example- I had to play a wedding on this a few years ago and I couldn't help but think what a horrible inadequate little box of whistles it was. The case (or lack thereof) is just ugly and the nave really could do with more than just 5 stops. The chamber would certainly have room for an instrument twice the size, and if the church ever wanted a bigger instrument (unlikely, but you never know...) why should they be forced to keep it? And why should age necessarily come into it? (In the classic car trade they often talk about 'modern classics') Arguable this is one of the finest instruments in County Durham. http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=D03660 . It's been a successful instrument and is the choice 2nd choice asside of Durham Cathedral for organ recitals. But because it's a 1989 rebuild of a previous instrument this is not historic. But surely one day it will be and we should recognize this fact and encourage it to be preserved. On the other hand this instrument http://www.npor.org.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi...ec_index=N14914 is a pitiful specimen. It makes a puny sound which struggles to have any impact even in the small building. I don't remember any one stop on it sounding remarkable, and some of it being unfocused and just woolly sounding. But this one had to be given a 'historic' restoration (when a lot could have been done to otherwise improve it) and I think it got grants for that reason. The only reason it's historic is because it contains Postill pipework, and it's an early Harrison job form the 1870's. None of that makes it musically successful however. Historic it is, quality is isn't. Sowhy should it gain recognition? Anyhow... I'd like to here your thoughts on this. No offence is meant at any time to the good people of BIOS and their historical opinions, I just want to question this issue 'What is historic, and what is worth preserving?' Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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