Jump to content
Mander Organ Builders Forum

Tuning Disasters


headcase
 Share

Recommended Posts

The topic of service disasters made me realise that the funnier side of organ tuning (yeah, right...) might also help to lift a little of the winter gloom.

 

Two stories come to mind.

 

When I was a lowly tuner's lad, said tuner and I visited a parish church in a Gloucestershire town (well known for a book festival). The organ was placed on a gallery at the west end, the console about as far away as it could be, in the chancel. Communication was therefore difficult with resorting to unseemly shouting.

 

A dumb note on the bass of the Swell Oboe meant the tuner needed to remove the pipe for cleaning. Standing inside the Swell box, invisible to view and having lifted out the lengthy resonator, he then proceeded to demonstrate how, with the correct embouchure, one could perform The Last Post and Reveille. Sadly this degenerated into a pitiful collection of what might best be described as 'raspberries', all the more unfortunate as the Priest had walked in unannounced partway through the concert. Sitting 90ft away at the console I was helpless to indicate the presence of clergy! We didn't lose the tuning, either.

 

***

 

The second story was related to me by a colleague and concerns the antics of another young apprentice (no names, no pack-drill) who went on to far greater things in the trade. Working in a cold and dingy south-east London church in the mid 1950's, little amusement was to be had. However, the church did possess some very fine chandeliers, suspended on heavy chains from the roof trusses. The apprentice, being of an adventurous nature, considered that these chains would make excellent pendulums. Climbing aloft and clinging to a chandelier he did indeed prove that it was possible to get up a 'fair old swing', up and down the nave. As always happens in moments of such delight, the church door creaked open, heralding the arrival of clergy.

 

Now, of course, consider the scene...and that there are no brakes, as it were, on a swinging chandelier...

 

***

 

 

Any other takers ?

 

H

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Not tuning, but certainly an organbuilding disaster.

 

A friend of mine tells a story about assisting at the removal of an organ in a church that was going electronic. The brief was to remove everything except the facade pipes. This proved easier said than done, because, with the insides gone, there was little holding the front pipes up, and there was some debate as to how they were going to be secured.

 

Well, events overtook our hapless crew, for there was a cry of "Look out!" followed by a crashing noise as the pipes toppled out of the case one after another and landed in a tangled, crumpled heap on the floor.

 

"What the **** do we do now?" asked my mate in the silence that ensued, adding "The vicar will kill us!"

 

"Better mek a brew," replied the organbuilder.

 

"We can't: th'kettle's under yon lot!" was the response.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

The topic of service disasters made me realise that the funnier side of organ tuning (yeah, right...) might also help to lift a little of the winter gloom.

 

Two stories come to mind.

 

When I was a lowly tuner's lad, said tuner and I visited a parish church in a Gloucestershire town (well known for a book festival).  The organ was placed on a gallery at the west end, the console about as far away as it could be, in the chancel.  Communication was therefore difficult with resorting to unseemly shouting.

 

A dumb note on the bass of the Swell Oboe meant the tuner needed to remove the pipe for cleaning. Standing inside the Swell box, invisible to view and having lifted out the lengthy resonator,  he then proceeded to demonstrate how, with the correct embouchure,  one could perform The Last Post and Reveille.  Sadly this degenerated into a pitiful collection of what might best be described as 'raspberries',  all the more unfortunate as the Priest had walked in unannounced partway through the concert.  Sitting 90ft away at the console I was helpless to indicate the presence of clergy!  We didn't lose the tuning, either.

 

***

 

The second story was related to me by a colleague and concerns the antics of another young apprentice (no names, no pack-drill) who went on to far greater things in the trade.  Working in a cold and dingy south-east London church  in the mid 1950's,  little amusement was to be had.  However,  the church did possess some very fine chandeliers, suspended on heavy chains from the roof trusses.  The apprentice,  being of an adventurous nature,  considered that these chains would make excellent pendulums. Climbing aloft and clinging to a chandelier he did indeed prove that it was possible to get up a 'fair old swing', up and down the nave.  As always happens in moments of such delight,  the church door creaked open, heralding the arrival of clergy.

 

Now, of course, consider the scene...and that there are no brakes, as it were, on a swinging chandelier...

 

***

Any other takers ?

 

H

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Nick Bennett's story about the tuner who removed a pipe to play "The last post" has a hint of irony about it. Knowing that he practices on the organ of Halifax PC, and assuming that John Clough still tunes the organ, perhap[s he shoulod set himn the same challenge.

 

I've a funny feeling that Mr Clough will probably be able to perform the whole of "The Carnival of Venice" variations without blinking!!

 

However, back to tuning disasters.......

 

"When ay was nobbut a lad," as they say, I held the notes for a particuarly horrible tuning-man. If I made the slightest error, he would throw a wobbly and not speak for days. Many was the time I did not enjoy his company, and many a silent meal was eaten.

 

One particular day, we were at an RC convent tuning the organ, and unbeknown to the tuner, the Mother Superior and a couple of lesser nun-type mortals had entered the chapel to pray. I was tired....very tired....and kept making mistakes.

 

Suddenly, a cry came from deep inside the organ, "Bugger....can't you hit the right notes?"

 

The Mother Superior rose from her devotions and replied angrily, "I will not tolerate that sort of language in chapel."

 

A meek voice sounded from the bowels of the instrument, "Sorry Mother, but his name is Burger."

 

What could I do? I smiled sweetly, (I still do) gave them a little wave and said, "Bonjour madame."

 

The Mother Superior was obviously unconvinced, but she gave the tuner the benefit of the doubt, after which he started speaking to me.....unfortunately.

 

I suppose I had the last laugh, for five years down the line, I played the organ for the tuner's funeral!!

 

MM

 

 

PS: Sorry to repeate Nick Bennett's post last night!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 1 month later...
Nick Bennett's story about the tuner who removed a pipe to play "The last post" has a hint of irony about it. Knowing that he practices on the organ of Halifax PC, and assuming that John Clough still tunes the organ, perhap[s he shoulod set himn the same challenge.

 

I've a funny feeling that Mr Clough will probably be able to perform the whole of "The Carnival of Venice" variations without blinking!!

 

However, back to tuning disasters.......

 

"When ay was nobbut a lad," as they say, I held the notes for a particuarly horrible tuning-man. If I made the slightest error, he would throw a wobbly and not speak for days. Many was the time I did not enjoy his company, and many a silent meal was eaten.

 

One particular day, we were at an RC convent tuning the organ, and unbeknown to the tuner, the Mother Superior and a couple of lesser nun-type mortals had entered the chapel to pray. I was tired....very tired....and kept making mistakes.

 

Suddenly, a cry came from deep inside the organ, "Bugger....can't you hit the right notes?"

 

The Mother Superior rose from her devotions and replied angrily, "I will not tolerate that sort of language in chapel."

 

A meek voice sounded from the bowels of the instrument, "Sorry Mother, but his name is Burger."

 

What could I do?  I smiled sweetly, (I still do)  gave them a little wave and said, "Bonjour madame."

 

The Mother Superior was obviously unconvinced, but she gave the tuner the benefit of the doubt, after which he started speaking to me.....unfortunately.

 

I suppose I had the last laugh, for five years down the line, I played the organ for the tuner's funeral!!

 

MM

PS: Sorry to repeate Nick Bennett's post last night!

 

A Point of Interest!

 

Having known John Clough for many years it was a long time before I discovered he was one of greatly respected euphonium plavers in the country.

 

Frank Fowler

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 2 weeks later...

Sitting 90ft away at the console I was helpless to indicate the presence of clergy!

 

You need to agree a code with the tuner. When people enter the church I was told to flick to the octave several times. This gave the tuner time to put his tobacco pipe into his pocket!!

 

I always used to think as a small lad that it was amusing the tuner wore a hearing aid.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 3 weeks later...

This was an urban legend at a firm of organ builders that I used to work for, but knowing the people involved I'm sure it happenned...

 

Having been called out to investigate a cipher at an RC church the builders had found that once again some of the leather had broken on a pallet.

 

When the priest enquired why it had gone wrong, the organ builder [who was a couple of ranks short of a mixture] said...

 

"I think its because of all of the incest you have here"

 

 

Luckily, the priest was said to have laughed it off, but I think the other organ builder had to run from the loft in hysterics!

 

MB

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Please sign in to comment

You will be able to leave a comment after signing in



Sign In Now
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...