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Acid Drops


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The history of organ-building, as with the history of anything worthwhile, abounds with a number of strong-minded individuals; perhaps the most celebrated being Fr Henry Willis.


Having rceently obtained a re-print of the book "Brindley & Foster Organ Builders," by J R Knott, I reached a letter sent by Brindley & Foster to the magazine, "Organist & Choirmaster," which saw me spluttering a mouthful of tea down my shirt.


Things don't get much bitchier or poiinted than this:-



Dear Sirs,


Mr Robert Hope-Jones in his letter in your March issue seems to be under the impression that our Flute Fundamentale is intended to be of his Tibia Clausa class.As this statement, if uncontradicted, may do us harm, we wish to say that the Flute Fundementale as designed, scaled and voiced by us, is not intended to produce "powerful foundation tone to balance powerful reeds." It is a stop of the true organ variety, designed to replace stops of the Clarabella variety where this is desirable.


We hold and always have held the views at variance with those of Mr Robert Hope-Jones on the subject of organ-tone; and our opinions are based on experience extending beyond the time when Mr Robert Hope-Jones transferred his genius from the telephone to the diaphone: our ideals have met with the entire approval of all our clients and received the approbation of many prominent musicians, and are thereby justified. There is always room for difference of opinion, and if Mr Robert Hope-Jones has succeeded in his threefold duty, in pleasing himself, gratifying his clients and satisying his shareholders, we shall be the last to withold our mede of praise.


In the meantime, we would assure our friends that we have no intention of trespassing on the unique preserves of Mr Robert Hope-Jones. Should we ever change our opinion, we will let our first "tonal invention" bear such a name as "Tibia Dementia" or "Tuba Plausa."


Yours faithfully,


B & F





Are there any other such "acid drops" I wonder?



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There was an article in 'The Organ' many years ago by (I think) Bernard Edmonds which quoted letters from W.T. Best, one of which fulminated against Hope-Jones (the other was a diatribe about Father Willis, with whom he had a fall-out), hoping that he might hang himself in his own cables. If I can lay my hands on it, I will quote it.


Was it 'A Sackful of Shakings' - or maybe 'For the Elephant's Children' (if that was indeed by BBE - it was written under a pseudonym)?

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  • 3 weeks later...

Nothing to do with organ building and probably not intentional either, but I heard a classic piece of ineptitude last year. One of the more rural corners of our county has a small choral society. Like many such, the members were as keen as mustard, but not as proficient and well drilled as they deserved to be. For years the choir had been run by a lady (we'll call her "Mabel") who, in her day, had been a very competent organist. However, Mabel was now well into her seventies and had at last felt it was time to retire. Accordingly, she had handed over the baton to a first-rate professional musician, who promptly set about knocking the choir into a presentable shape. The first concert under their new conductor was last spring, when they sang Stainer's Crucifixion at their "home" church, where Mabel still played. I was booked to accompany.


It was immediately obvious at the start of the concert that the resident priest was not over-blessed in the eptitude department when he began to welcome the audience while still walking briskly up the aisle with his back to them, but at the end he positively excelled himself. After the conductor and I had taken our bows and stood aside, he gave a speech of thanks more or less as follows:


“I am purely addressing Mabel. Where is she? Oh, there you are!! You know, when I left my chaplaincy at **** hospital I’ll confess that I rather hoped the place would collapse without me. But of course it didn’t. I expect you were hoping the same would happen with this choir when you left. Well, I have to say that, under their new director Christopher, the choir sounds better now than it ever did. What a wonderful experience it was. And I am used to hearing you battling with the organ every Sunday, but tonight I thought the playing was so masterly that I actually wondered whether I was listening to a cathedral organ.”


The conductor and I looked at each other, rolled our eyes and imperceptibly shook our heads in disbelief.

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  • 3 months later...

Perhaps it's not of any great interest, but I was chatting recently to someone who knows "Mabel" and learnt the sequel to the above tale. Hardly surprisingly, Mabel was mortally offended by the vicar's (presumably unintentional) insults and promptly resigned. However, very soon afterwards the vicar moved away to pastures new and Mabel is now happily settled back at the console once more.

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