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Guest Barry Oakley - voluntarily dereg

Grants For Refurbishment

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Guest Barry Oakley

I am somewhat out of touch with the present situation regarding the obtaining of grants for the refurbishment/rebuilding of organs, I wonder, too, what the criteria is that grant-giving organisations for an application to be successful.

 

Oh that we had the same set-up as they do in France. When I was in Voiron just a couple of years ago, the town's church organ was being refurbished with funding provided from national, regional and local government authorities. The church did not have to find a penny, or should I say Euro.

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I think that it's problem of money and culture; but mainly of culture. If you realise, the authorities think that to restore or to build an organ is not profitable. The cost for a restoration is almost as expensive as a new building. The authorities think that is not profitable to restorate something which will be used in the masses at sundays (sad but true!).

The church (both anglican and catholic) has money for everything and has not any money for nothing. After the restoration you have to pay for someone who plays the instruments and (depends on the weather) two times per year to tune it. Money and money...

When the authorities (both civil and religious) become convinced of the question that two organs are not the same and that an organ is something more (much more) that an amount of pipes and woods, we will have to suffer. An organ must not be only at great auditoriums (but also!) on which the cost for the instrument be profitable (concerts).

There in England, the tradition of choir singing has been retained in much more extent than in Spain. Perhap there the organs are played more frequently. Here, this tradition is dead so the organ is a museum piece.

For this I think that the restoriation is matter of culture (of of money, of couse).

Unfortunately, nowadays which is not profitable, does not exist.

Thank you very much.

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Is it actually true that a restauration is as expansive as a new construction?

 

Maybe this idea dates back from a time when, like in Belgium, it was enough to find a dozen old 4' Flute pipes in a pneumatic organ to "reconstitute" a renaissance(?)-Organ "round them"... There are better ideas by far to be find in Mr Mander's Portfolio, as instance, "hybrids" instruments left as such while restauring them. I am sure this way costs less as these attempts "to go back to the original purity of concept" -whatever this may actually mean...- And so the money may be invested in what really matters: have the thing in working order and preserved for many years, without attempting to "correct" "mistakes"....About which we could well learn, decades later, they were "original".

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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I don't think it is true to make a generalisation that restoration costs as much as building new. Take for instance, the cost of restoring the Royal Albert Hall organ of £1.7m ($3.05m approx.). Despite the extensive work, involving many new soundboards, restoration of existing ones, extensive cleaning, revised internal layout requiring detailed design, leather work, console restoration, rewiring and fitting of a multi-level capture and sequencer system, plus restoration of pipework, conveyancing, pnuematic tubing, meticulous tonal finishing, etc, etc. I would be astounded if a new organ of this size could be built for £1.7m without bankrupting the organ builder concerned.

 

There maybe exceptions, however, where a lot of pipework has to be remade or replaced, and where extensive lead tubing has to be renewed in pnuematic actions that might be very expensive, but I suspect these are the exceptions, rather than the rule.

 

But my point is that the various providers of grants for such restoration projects would be mistaken in believing as a generalisation that restoration costs the same as building new.

 

Moreover, there are some providers of grants that specify restorations of organs of historical importance, especially in listed buildings, where the instrument is an integral part of the building's fabric and archictecture. They come with strict criteria. When they say restoration, that is precisely what they mean, rather than rebuild or tonal modifications, or new consoles etc.

 

Generally speaking, several projects successfully have grants, involving national lottery funding, approved, but they fail to get off the ground because the church or venue involved fails to meet its own funding requirements. National Lottery money will not provide 100% grants. Often the project has to come up with around 15% to 20% of its own funding.

 

When you consider the failings of many parishes to be able to come up with such funding, especially in more affluent parts of the country, one has to ask questions of how commited is the congregation to the future viability of the parish.

 

And, while such sums of money in the self-funding requirement may seem large, if one considers the amount of money the average person spends in the pub each week, or buying chocolate or other frivilous things, there are a lot of small self sacrifices that people can make if they are involved in a parish that is planning to restore a pipe organ. Maybe one or two fewer pints of beer a week and one packet of chocolate biscuits a week instead of two. Maybe one week in the month, cutting out the weekly trip to the local Tahj Mahal, etc, etc. and putting all that money into the organ fund.

 

If there are 100 people in a parish church and each one of them puts away an average of £5 a week to donate towards a capital project in the church, such as an organ restoration, in a single year, there would be a total of £26,000, and that does not take into account any interest earned or any covenented giving schemes whereby tax emoney could be claimed from the Treasury. Such a sum would meet the self-funding requirements under many grant programmes.

 

Now part of the problem is that many churches probably don't have 100 people in their parish and are operating on the basis that the church will only remain open until the incumbent parish priest or vicar finally retires or falls off his/her pulpit, whichever comes first.

 

Church closures are a real problem. The only way to preserve them, if they close, is for them to be bought and used as concert venues and museums, with the organs inside them being restored and maintained. It would be good to see grants for such purposes, otherwise a fine church could just as easily turn into a block of flats, a night club or a new Sainsbury's, Tesco, Safeway, or petrol station. And if churches that become concert halls or museumns fail, then you have to ask whether the community really wants them. Maybe there is scope for the National Trust to step in, if the Church of England and the Roman Catholic Church would donate redundant churches to the nation, rather than sell them to a property shark.

 

But it is wrong to expect grant programmes to provide 100% financing for restorations. If churches or halls care enough about the fabrics of their buildings, which includes pipe organs, it is only right that they should pay something towards their upkeep and restoration.

 

And for a viable parish that is lucky enough to have an organ worth restoring, those members of the parish that contribute to it can rightly feel a sense of ownership. The same applies to the construction of a new organ.

 

Take for example the way that Symphony Hall funded the construction of its new pipe organ. Whether you like the instrument or not, you have to admire the ICC for its approach towards funding this project and the ownership that the people that contributed feel.

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Guest Barry Oakley

I do agree that it is perhaps unreasonable for grant-giving bodies to stump up 100 per-cent of rebuild/refurbishment costs, but if total funding can be granted for the maintenance of church fabric, why not for the preservation of pipe organs?

 

Where I spent part of my early career as a boy chorister, Holy Trinity Parish Church, Hull, Britain's largest parish church, there exists a fine Forster & Andrews/John Compton, 4-manual organ which is now in a pretty desperate state. It has not been touched since 1938, the year it was built, and requires a thorough overhaul, new transmission system and new console. I reckon the cost is likely to be in the region of £600K to £700K. To my knowledge, no funds have been set aside and the church's congregation, despite its status as Hull's civic church, is now pitifully small.

 

Unless most of this estimated sum is not grant aided, I can see the organ falling into enforced retirement, its glorious sound never to be heard again and the drums and guitar brigade taking over. Perish the thought!

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I was upset to hear that the grand organ of Holy Trinity Hull has fallen into a bad state. I remember hearing it in the 1970's along with the City Hall being very impressed. This is not the only large Compton organ to be in trouble. There is a large instrument in Paddington that is only kept going by a dedicated organ builder and several helpers, and I am sure others.

 

It is a great pity that there is not a central single fund other than the lottery where large amounts of money can be allocated to historic organs. I do not wish to pay more tax, but I think this corner of the arts is underfunded by central government compared with a great many European countries. I wonder what the situation in USA is?

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There is no direct tax funding for organ projects, new or restorations, generally in the US - at least not from the Federal government, although indirect funding is available in the form of tax relief, which I will explain later.

 

It is not inconceivable that a hall owned by a city or state government that possess a pipe organ might be well cared for out of public funds, but such examples are probably rare, and I can't think of any off the top of my head. The fact is that most pipe organs are owned by churches or commercial concert halls. Churches close here in the US too and organs become redndant.

 

New organs are often the result of a legacy making up the largest percentage of the expenditure, with a fund-raising effort by the congregation making up the rest, as happened at St Ignatius Loyola in New York in 1993, although the legacy in this case was made by an anonymous donor who is still very much alive.

 

This happened before I moved to New York, but the congregation does feel a sense of pride and ownership with this instrument, which probably explains why the concert season, including the recitals, are very well attended, and masses with music are also well attended and a lot stay to listen to voluntaries. Speaking of which, the 2004/05 concert programme opens this Sunday with Kent Tritle playing Widor VII and works by Dupre - sorry for the unashamed plug - and we have Martin Baker of Westminster Cathedral making his New York debut next month.

 

I have to admit that as the St Ignatius organ was built in my home town of London, it makes me proud to be an Englishman in New York every time I go to church, and it is great that so many eminent British and international organists are invited to give recitals here.

 

As for the tax relief, if you are a parishioner in a church that wants to build a new organ, or restore an existing one and you contribute to the fund-raising, you can offset that against your tax liabilities in the tax year that you make the donation, whether the donation is $5 or $5,000 or more, provided that the church has tax exempt status, which it inevitably will have.

 

For instance, if you own shares in a company, or various companies, and sell them and make a $5,000 profit, if you donate that to the fund-raising programme, you can use that whole $5,000 contribution to offset any capital gains you made on the sale of the shares. A more efficient way to do it would be to donate owrnership of the shares to the fund-raising programme, which you can also use to offset against your income tax. With a church, it would have tax exempt status and would be able to realise the full value of any donated shares with no tax liabilities.

 

This is how many capital projects of tax exempt organisations are funded, no matter what they are: it could be a shelter for the homeless; an activity centre for underprivileged children; or it could be a new pipe organ in a church, or a restoration.

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I think Barry Oakley is mistaken in saying that total grant funding is available for the maintenance of the fabric of a church, otherwise every congregation would be paying for the upkeep of their vicar or parish priest and the electricity and heating bill, 'safe in the knowledge' that the money will automatically appear to fix a hole in the roof. I think this is somewhat wishful thinking.

 

Every church in England I've ever been associated with, RC and C of E, has had a fabric fund, used only for the purposes of maintaining the building, including major capital projects. And that is also true of listed buildings. Some churches maintain their pipe organs out of that fund, others have an entirely separate fund.

 

I think you would find that if a church wanted to restore its stained glass windows, for instance, it may be able to apply for a grant to fund the major part of it, but it would also have to raise at least 25% of the cost by its own means.

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Part of the 'local' problem is also the fact that it must often be very difficult to convince a congregation that they should stump up huge sums of money for an instrument that they have seldom, if ever, heard. The more active a parish is in its music-making, the more likely it is that the request for investment will be met helpfully.

 

Without such activity, you are very likely to be left totally in the often unpredicatable hands of the external historians and benefactors as regards any likelyhood of restoration.

 

At parish level, it is generally unlikely that any available funding will go beyond day to day maintainance of the instrument.

 

Tony

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