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Henry Willis


Colin Richell
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Today I listened to a very interesting programme on Radio 4 about the life of Father Henry Willis, and many people were interviewed about this much respected organ builder.

I could not understand why the interviews did not include a member of the Willis family assuming that Henry 4 is still with us.

Who else but a family member could relate information regarding his Great Grandfather ? so I felt that this ommission rather spoilt the programme, whose listeners were not even informed that the Company now had no connection with this wonderful family.

For the first time I heard the St Georges Hall Organ, and I can understand David Well's enthusiasm. for this instrument. Regrettably no recordings of the AP organ were included.

Did anyone else catch the programme.,and I wonder what persuaded the BBC to actually spend some time on discussing pipe organs and their builders.

Colin Richell

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...listeners were not even informed that the Company now had no connection with this wonderful family.

 

I don't suppose it matters, since a great majority of household names are now brand names retained in commemoration of their founder rather than the name of the current proprietor. It would be a strange situation if Marks & Spencer or Ford were compelled to change their name every time there was a change of management.

 

If someone buys the firm and all the intellectual property, records etc relating to that firm, then they have every right to be unquestioningly recognised as the head of that firm and all its brand identity.

 

Do you know the last Henry very well?

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I think Colins point is valid - as it is only relatively recently that the firm ceased to be part of the Willis family. It would seem like an obious thing to do to get in touch with the Willis family - who knows maybe no one was available for some reason. None the less - what a great thing that the history this firm was given some air time on radio. I couldn't imagine CBC radio here in Canada giving doing an item on the history of Casavant - a firm no less prolific!

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I don't suppose it matters, since a great majority of household names are now brand names retained in commemoration of their founder rather than the name of the current proprietor. It would be a strange situation if Marks & Spencer or Ford were compelled to change their name every time there was a change of management.

 

If someone buys the firm and all the intellectual property, records etc relating to that firm, then they have every right to be unquestioningly recognised as the head of that firm and all its brand identity.

 

Do you know the last Henry very well?

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Yes I met Henry at Ally Pally many times, what a character, probably a bit eccentric but very funny when telling his jokes.

I hadn't heard from him for ages, so wondered whether he was in good health.

Perhaps he was asked and declined, but nevertheless an interesting programme.

Colin Richell

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Yes I met Henry at Ally Pally many times, what a character, probably a bit eccentric but very funny when telling his jokes.

I hadn't heard from him for ages, so wondered whether he was in good health.

Perhaps he was asked and declined, but nevertheless an interesting programme.

Colin Richell

 

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

 

 

Henry IV was always a hoot, and quite prone to dramatic outbursts and much colourful language.

 

The bit that always sticks in my mind is his comment about "Father" Willis and organ-funding. I think I can just about quote it word for word, as it was heard on "Howard Goodall's Organ Works" on the TV:-

 

"My Great Great Grandfather was not inhibited by the bribaries and corruption act of (date), and the usual thing was to have two patrons each paying half of the cost of the instrument and each unknown to the other, with the church paying the other half. This made certain organ-building quite profitable."

 

Of course, his party trick when he gave talks to local associatons, was to bring along two slender string bass pipes, which were usually slotted into each other; thus giving the appearance of a single pipe with two mouths and two boots. It's not often Henry would laugh at other people's jests, but when he asked me what it was, and I told him that it just had to be a double-bass, he found that very amusing.

 

With the said strings, he would take out a knife and start slicing away at them mid-talk......first a nice 4ft Principal, then a 2ft open flute and finally, using his hand as a tuning shade, he would play the Ntaional Anthem with it.

 

I am astonished that Colin has never heard the organ at St Geroge's Hall, Liverpool in the flesh. It a big, brooding sound with an awesome tutti, and quite unlike any other Father Willis I know. It isn't entirely authentic Father Willis, but it's a mighty impressive instrument all the same.

 

MM

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I recall going to the AGM of the IAO during its annual congress in Hull circa 1970. It had been anounced that the Hon Gen Secretary (Glynn Jenkins) urgently needed a new typewriter as the current one was worn out. After a coffee break, Henry Willis was given permission to addresss the audience. He produced a wallet and asked anyone had lost it. There being no response, he admitted that it as his own and he took from it a £5 note (it might have been £10 - it was a long time ago now), folded it and stood it on the table. "We've just been told the Hon Gen Sec needs a new typewriter and here's the first £5 towards it. Who'll give me another £5?" Within ten minutes he had collected more than enough money from the audience to buy the Hon Gen Sec a very good quality new typewriter.

 

He had put his visiting card "Henry Willis, Organ Builder" on the door of his room in the sleeping accommodation block at the college of Education where the Congress was being held. Overnight some wicked person (not me!) replaced this with another visiting card "The Allen Organ Co." He took the joke in god humour.

 

Malcolm

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

 

 

Henry IV was always a hoot, and quite prone to dramatic outbursts and much colourful language.

 

The bit that always sticks in my mind is his comment about "Father" Willis and organ-funding. I think I can just about quote it word for word, as it was heard on "Howard Goodall's Organ Works" on the TV:-

 

"My Great Great Grandfather was not inhibited by the bribaries and corruption act of (date), and the usual thing was to have two patrons each paying half of the cost of the instrument and each unknown to the other, with the church paying the other half. This made certain organ-building quite profitable."

 

Of course, his party trick when he gave talks to local associatons, was to bring along two slender string bass pipes, which were usually slotted into each other; thus giving the appearance of a single pipe with two mouths and two boots. It's not often Henry would laugh at other people's jests, but when he asked me what it was, and I told him that it just had to be a double-bass, he found that very amusing.

 

With the said strings, he would take out a knife and start slicing away at them mid-talk......first a nice 4ft Principal, then a 2ft open flute and finally, using his hand as a tuning shade, he would play the Ntaional Anthem with it.

 

I am astonished that Colin has never heard the organ at St Geroge's Hall, Liverpool in the flesh. It a big, brooding sound with an awesome tutti, and quite unlike any other Father Willis I know. It isn't entirely authentic Father Willis, but it's a mighty impressive instrument all the same.

 

MM

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I had always intended to visit Liverpool to see the organ but never got round to it.Perhaps one day.

I do recall David Wells singing the praises of the organ and reiterating that it needed big money to complete the restoration, so good luck to them.

Colin Richell.

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