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Keep or discard?


Guest Cynic

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Guest Cynic

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No, I suggest for reasons of our own heritage

1. A complete instrument (i.e. one sufficiently comprehensive that an unbiased person could consider it able to do its job of work) by any builder has an inherent worth. It is quite literally irreplaceable.

2. Any organ is quite a bit more than a collection of pipes. Part of its whole nature are the chests, action and wind system. Nobody should be allowed simply to sweep any of these away without seriously good justification. I would assert that making a small profit by saving man hours would not qualify as good justification.

3. That builders who spend the time and trouble giving any instrument a new lease of life should be accorded a respect, and properly remunerated for that conscientious work. We are currently in danger that the 'sweep it all away' merchants are making ordinary rebuilds too expensive and that some organs have lost much more than they should have done.

4. The number of UK firms now undertaking rebuilding work on large organs is getting quite small. Many good organ-builders simply do not want to tangle with these projects, preferring (quite reasonably) to build only first class new organs on their terms. Good luck to them - they are creative artists. God help us, however, when all that seems to be left that are active in this area of work are either viewed as too expensive or apparently without scruples heritage-wise!

 

I am not against the occasional re-arrangement of layout. H&H, for instance, thought long and hard about moving the Choir division at St.Bartholomew's Armley. When this decision was made, it was thoroughly planned and researched and had the great advantage that Schulze himself never installed the instrument in that building. I am not suggesting that a seriously uneconomic action should be repaired when a more up-to-date version (e.g. electric primaries) will give the same tone and greater longevity. But trash a good thing...something that has worked happily for many many years... made of the finest materials, now as seasoned as they will ever be....

 

 

Come on then..let's have your thoughts folks!

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Hi

 

I thoroughly agree.

 

Certainly on my NPOR entries/updates I will only use the term "restored" when there are no significant changes to pipework or action, etc. other than researched returns to an earlier state - then it will be "restored to nnnn state. Otherwise, it's a rebuild no matter what the builder says. Looking through back numbers of "the Organ", etc you often come across the statement "restored and improved" - which is nonsense.

 

Too many organs have been spoiled over the years by changes to follow the then-current fashion and the like.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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Cynic's comment reflect fully the state of the thinking here today,

and I fully support them.

 

Pierre

 

What a lot of goodwill is breaking out today. This is all very true.

 

Some know more than others about an instrument I currently hope to have a small interest in whose roots date to 1792. Of the four proposals submitted for its future, mine is the only one which retains existing soundboards and the only one which retains the old pipework, all placed back in its original holes, and only supplemented where material has been lost. Staggeringly, only one other proposal kept any of the 1792 pipework at all.

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What a lot of goodwill is breaking out today. This is all very true.

 

Some know more than others about an instrument I currently hope to have a small interest in whose roots date to 1792. Of the four proposals submitted for its future, mine is the only one which retains existing soundboards and the only one which retains the old pipework, all placed back in its original holes, and only supplemented where material has been lost. Staggeringly, only one other proposal kept any of the 1792 pipework at all.

 

I suggest you print this thread and show it to the people in charge.

 

Pierre

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I suggest you print this thread and show it to the people in charge.

 

Pierre

To be realistic - I doubt that anything would change if we did.

 

I agree that Cynic's comments make excellent good sense.

 

I also agree with much of what you say, Pierre. I have a great respect for your vast knowledge of instruments and organ building. I think that where we differ slightly is that I would be uneasy about regarding an organ solely from the historic point of view. Not simply because in some cases, there is insufficient documentary evidence to allow for a faithful reproduction, but also because the result will be just that - a copy or an imitation, if you will; and therefore, in a sense just as 'dishonest' (I use this word reluctantly) as a rebuild.

 

I recall a well-publicised argument which centered around the famous Schulze organ at Doncaster Parish Church, when the Walker console began to show its age. At one point, there was a very real possibility that this organ (and any subsequent incumbent organist) could have been saddled with (and I honestly believe that this would have been the case) a most unwieldy console which served no useful purpose aside from gratification to the historians.

 

Please do not think I am sniping, Pierre. I also agree that we, in England, have lost irretrievably certain instruments (or parts of instruments), which should never have been destroyed. But at the same time, if I was confronted with what I think they were planning at Doncaster, for example, I am not sure that I would have been able to do more than accompany a hymn on it. Either that, or the descriptive powers of the proponents of the scheme left something to be desired.

 

Surely this is one of the most difficult questions to answer satisfactorily. It may even be impossible to do so. On the one hand, a church may be guilty of sacrificing part of its physical heritage; on the other, it may have squandered precious financial resources* on perpetuating an instrument that at best functions indifferently and is tonally inadequate (mot merely in terms of volume) for the job which it exists to perform.

 

In any case, where does one draw the line? (In the sense of a time-line.) To what point in a particular instrument's history should it be restored? Where is the line drawn regarding any subsequent additions or alterations, particularly if they themselves exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship and have formed a part of the instrument for many years?

 

Again, there was well-publicised controversy surrounding the restoration of the 'Father' Willis organ in Reading Town Hall. Now that the dust has settled, there does seem to be a consensus of opinion that this was, in several key aspects, a serious error of judgement. Personally, even just the aspect of removing the balanced Swell pedal seems perverse - to say nothing of the alteration to the pitch and the matter of the action.

 

 

 

* And whatever situation in Belgium currently obtains, it is my experience that, in the Church of England, money is quite genuinely in very short supply. There are very few places in this area which have the fiscal resources of Sherborne Abbey, for example.

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Well, I think we know a bit more about historic organs today as we dis 20 years ago....

 

A demonstration of this would obtain if only our host could be left alone (with his team)

at Doncaster for a year of two. I suspect the results would convince anyone....

 

 

"In any case, where does one draw the line? (In the sense of a time-line.) To what point in a particular instrument's history should it be restored. Where is the line drawn regarding any subsequent additions or alterations, particularly if they themselves exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship and have formed a pert of the instrument for many years?"

(Quote)

 

 

During the neo-baroque period, the answer was simple: the organs had to be rebuilt back to the state it was in

during the "good" period !

(With "improvements" of course: Schnitger or Dom -Bédos-like Mixtures in flemish organs, for example...)

 

Now we reckon the question is slightly more complicated ! A majority of organs are made

of several historic layers, and the decision must be made individually for each organ. Often,

several layers must be kept togheter in order not to spoil valuable Substanz.

Anyway, the times when hundreds ancient pipes were melted down "because they belonged

to a bad period" are over.......EUH......*SHOULD* be over.....(even in W..., euh, well...)

 

Pierre

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Well, I think we know a bit more about historic organs today as we dis 20 years ago....

 

A demonstration of this would obtain if only our host could be left alone (with his team)

at Doncaster for a year of two. I suspect the results would convince anyone....

 

Pierre

 

Without such a test we will perhaps never know for sure. However, there did seem to be a number of professional musicians who were less than convinced on the available evidence. Without wishing to become flippant, an organist's job is often difficult enough as it is - why add to the problem?

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"In any case, where does one draw the line? (In the sense of a time-line.) To what point in a particular instrument's history should it be restored. Where is the line drawn regarding any subsequent additions or alterations, particularly if they themselves exhibit a high degree of craftsmanship and have formed a pert of the instrument for many years?"

(Quote)

 

 

During the neo-baroque period, the answer was simple: the organs had to be rebuilt back to the state it was in

during the "good" period !

(With "improvements" of course: Schnitger or Dom -Bédos-like Mixtures in flemish organs, for example...)

 

Now we reckon the question is slightly more complicated ! A majority of organs are made

of several historic layers, and the decision must be made individually for each organ. Often,

several layers must be kept togheter in order not to spoil valuable Substanz.

Anyway, the times when hundreds ancient pipes were melted down "because they belonged

to a bad period" are over.......EUH......*SHOULD* be over.....(even in W..., euh, well...)

 

Pierre

 

 

Not easy, is it?!

 

When is a 'good' period? Oh - and when does it end? And will we know when it has ended? Oh yes, and is this not rather subjective, anyway? How do we quantify someone's expertise and judgement in assessing a paritcular isntrument's worth? Take just one organ - that at Saint Mary's Church, Calne, in Wiltshire. One commentator (whose views I respect) thinks it is superb - and I just want to set fire to it. * Given human nature, it would be almost impossible for even the most honest individual to divorce in every aspect his or her findings from his or her opinions and desires. Anyone who was truly and totally objective may also simply not care enough about the end result.

 

Oh yes - and, why are lions lions?

 

....

 

 

* For the record, should the 'unthinkable' happen in the near future, and the organ in this church turn into a fireball, I only like the idea of doing this this - I would not actually act upon this thought....

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There are no "good" nor "bad" periods ! Once this is accepted, the personnal bias

become less problematic.

 

Pierre

 

Only in the sense of personal bias. Surely, in every other aspect it becomes infinitely more complcated?

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Only in the sense of personal bias. Surely, in every other aspect it becomes infinitely more complcated?

 

Indeed, but this is the reality; things are not simple, and we must deal with complexity and paradoxes.

Once we realize that, the chances are better to make less mistakes.

 

Pierre

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Guest Cynic
There are no "good" nor "bad" periods ! Once this is accepted, the personnal bias

become less problematic.

 

Pierre

 

 

Emphatically, Yes.

There are (of course) better and worse builders, but (usually) it is the better-built instruments that survive, largely because they inspire respect and affection.

 

I would contend that a decent musician will be able to make music on virtually any instrument. It may be that he or she will occasionally have to exercise judgement in choosing which composers and works to play, that is all.

 

The trouble is, some want a greater 'effect' from an organ, to help 'move' their listeners - this always involves more stops, more dominating effects, more brilliance in the tone etc. We are not the first to think like this of course: Bach is well known to have urged builders to provide better winding, more fundamental tone, more emphatic bass pipes and more contrast between divisions. No, he was not wrong, but he was chasing an ideal. In reality, he mostly had to live with the instruments he inherited and had to make the best of them. Can we not try to do the same?

 

Hearing one organ after another in Paris two years ago, only one thing became clear, the genuine, authentic original stops (by justifiably famous builders) were the beautiful ones. Those that came after (imitating them) seemed only able to make louder, harsher versions of the stops that we so admired! Why can some folks not hear beauty in individual stops, in ranks of character, in schemes of a different tonal ideal from their own? Do these things not give pleasure simply by their variety?

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I would contend that a decent musician will be able to make music on virtually any instrument. It may be that he or she will occasionally have to exercise judgement in choosing which composers and works to play, that is all.

 

This really is turning into a thread of goodwill. Incredible!

 

The gentle underlay here is that it is quite possible to accompany Choral Evenson without strings and banks of instantly settable button-ware. And, for that matter, a trigger swell. Go on - dare to say it...

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The gentle underlay here is that it is quite possible to accompany Choral Evensong without strings and banks of instantly settable button-ware. And, for that matter, a trigger swell. Go on - dare to say it...

 

Yes - and in my one of my cases one manual and oddly centred pedals - mind you I don't have to do Choral Evensong much - but Lessons & Carols and a reasonable diet of high days repertoir are part of the course. A challenge but not always an unrewarding one!

 

A

 

PS There must be a name fo the medical condition that results from protracted playing - with one's right foot stuck on a far right un-balanced trigger Swell trying desperately to 'swell' it while the remaining three limbs keep the music going! :blink:

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Hi folks...

 

This is another interesting thread!

 

I totally agree with the ideals Mr Cynic and Pierre are saying. Old and worthy instruments should always be respected when it comes to restoration. Some so called restorations from previous years have been less successful where people thought improvements could be made, and they would have been much better off leaving things well alone.

 

Look at the restoration of the Usher Hall Edinburgh. It still has its lovely pneumatic action beautifully retored (though it has to be said, it has given the city organist quite a few troubles lately...) It also has a modern solid state memory system ingeniously piggy backed onto the old pneumatic piston system. You can still play this instrument as it would have been when new. A very good job by Harrisons I think.

 

On the other hand, what about when things aren't so good? I think we must allow for some modification when it's necessary for reliability and access. The recent Shrewsbury post has been very interesting to read with regards to the possibility of converting to electro-pneumatic action.

 

I still think we should keep our 'heritage' ideals and opinions firmly rooted with regards to more significant instruments. We can't realistically try to save every instrument out there!

 

Cynics point about changes made to cathedral organs is certainly an interesting one. I think years ago many cathedral organists failed to realise that they would one day move on and that the next generations might have other ideas! Interestingly the less successful alterations that happened at st Mary's Cathedral Edinburgh were during the 4 short years in the 50's that one person was in charge of the music there for. The changes made were great reeds going into the solo box (useful, but they now don't speak into the nave well at all) new Great 16' reed (a bit roughly voiced in comparison to the rest) and some useful, but rather piddly mutations on the choir replacing more romantic sounds which preceded them. The changes Denis Townhill had done in the 70' s during his time were much better executed. For a start they were additions not replacements, and he ensured they fit well into the chorus on the great.

 

I agree with Cynic - cathedral organists should not be exempt from having to have a 2nd opinion with regards to proposals for changes!

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... I would contend that a decent musician will be able to make music on virtually any instrument. It may be that he or she will occasionally have to exercise judgement in choosing which composers and works to play, that is all. ...

 

Absolutely.

 

Except in one instance: I defy anyone to make the orgue-de-choeur at Chartres Cathedral sound either pleasant or exciting. I honestly believe this to be the worst organ I have ever played....

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... Look at the restoration of the Usher Hall Edinburgh. It still has its lovely pneumatic action beautifully retored (though it has to be said, it has given the city organist quite a few troubles lately...) It also has a modern solid state memory system ingeniously piggy backed onto the old pneumatic piston system. You can still play this instrument as it would have been when new. A very good job by Harrisons I think. ...

Except that we cannot know for sure exactly how it sounded - and how it felt to play when it was new. You also state that the restored action has given trouble lately. Surely this proves the point Heckelphone and I made on another thread? If a newly restored action is already giving trouble, was its restoration wise - and was it a responsible use of resources?

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Except that we cannot know for sure exactly how it sounded - and how it felt to play when it was new. You also state that the restored action has given trouble lately. Surely this proves the point Heckelphone and I made on another thread? If a newly restored action is already giving trouble, was its restoration wise - and was it a responsible use of resources?

 

As there are already many such organs that have been restored on the continent, without troubles afterwards,

it would maybe be interesting to have some of your pneumatic organs restored by our builders, in order

to pave the way. I could suggest some names by PM (No mystery, you know them all...)

 

Pierre

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As there are already many such organs that have been restored on the continent, without troubles afterwards,

it would maybe be interesting to have some of your pneumatic organs restored by our builders, in order

to pave the way. I could suggest some names by PM (No mystery, you know them all...)

 

Pierre

I would be interested to read such a PM, please, Pierre!

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You have Mail, Pcnd !

 

Here is a wonderful example of an "old nail" -this time with electro-pneumatic action-

which I would place immediately under legal protection (Denkmalschutz, Monument historique):

 

 

 

Other vidéo:

 

 

This 1931 organ, entirely devoid of any pretention in aspect and materials, deserves a careful

listening. Those two videos are enough to realize how a gem it is.

And by "legal protection", I mean all of it, old electrical bits included. The fad of replacing

old electric material with modern electronic stuff must be stopped !

(We can of course protect the system with modern, rapid fuses)

 

Pierre

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It's not always that easy!

Take "my" organ:

orgel-d1.jpg

 

* Built in 1770 by a regional builder, who completely failed in the result of a maybe interesting vision of a 4-man instrument in already somewhat terraced dynamic (Man IV in hood-swell)

* Interior completely replaced in 1793 by a better builder, but still not a grand master, developing the 4-man vision

* 50 years service without noticeable modifications, but still winding seems to be a issue

* ~ 1850 until 1900 small rebuilds mostly on winding, regarded still insufficient

* 1908-16 pneumatic chests and new stops added (pedal and new swell division)

* 1917 loss of about 50% of the stops ad 70% of the pipe number as "metal contribution" to the war

* 1938 electrification of all chests (slider 1793 and cone 1908 - kept because of "historic value" or simply lack of funds?), new pipework (filling the gaps) in Orgelbewegung style, made by a prominent firm, but which already has went over its peak

* 1983 the cone chests discarded for EP slider cests, some stops replaced due to anobia damage

 

Today still regarded as beeing to weak tonally, increasing number of problems, and due to chests origin date kbd range is only C-f3.

 

Possible solutions:

* keep (instruments and problems) and repair

* reproduce the the 1770/1793 state/vision (making use of 11 soundboards from 1793 and two problematic pedal reed stops)

- this option favoured by historizing builders, though the knowledge about the original state of the instrument is extremely thin (scaling, pipe materials, action layout and more) and the instrument would be highly speculative

* make completely new ("modern", so a fine tracker organ like a Mander would be) behind old facade

* rearrange pipework on new soundboards, extend keyboard range, some auxiliary ranks, optimize sound projection

(my personal favourite)

 

Everything will be limited by the architecture of the organ, covering the most important sound projection areas with the pedal wings and the giant transept, beeing as large as the nave.

 

The Colloquium of 2009 did not bring any true findings.

Shrewsbury seems to be a much easier challenge to decide....

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