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Saving the Walcker in Birmingham's Central Methodist Hall

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Birmingham's Central Methodist Hall is home to a large three manual Walcker which was originally built for a church in Germany, and was brought to eh UK in 1903. I played it about 30 years ago and thought it was a very grand, if somewhat tired, creature. Sadly the hall has been disused for many years, having ceased to be a nightclub venue some time after its ecclesiastical function stopped. Today's local paper says that it is to be converted into a new hotel and leisure centre. What particularly struck me in the report was a claim that as part of the refurbishment the organ is to restored. Can anyone shed light on this potentially very welcome news?

http://www.birminghampost.co.uk/business/commercial-property/neglected-birmingham-landmark-set-hotel-13715984

http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N07419

The-Central-Hall-6.jpg

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The architects have a number of images of their concept for the converted hall on their website: http://www.architectsle1.co.uk/central-hall-birmingham/

I do hope that they have costed for a proper restoration and not just a cosmetic job on the facade. Also I'm not sure what the intended use of the new hall would be, the drawings suggest more hotel lobby than concert venue. In which case I would be concerned that the 'restored' instrument might have little opportunity for serious use in case it disturbs the guests. Of course they might be invisaging a UK version of Macey's...

Are there any precendents for organs in hotels?

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I would certainly hope that the organ will be fully returned to pristine working order.  However, I share Choir Man's concern. I am minded of a case a few years back where a church local to me was converted to use as a library and café plus a mezzanine area where the small congregation could continue to hold services. The building housed a very nice, little altered and still functional (if decrepit) two-manual Walker organ of 1866 that was thought to contain some seventeenth-century pipework. The development proposals involved rebuilding the long-lost west gallery and "reinstating" the organ in its original position there. A local regeneration body was helping to fund the project and since I knew they were having problems spending their allocated budget I suggested that they might consider not only moving the organ, but restoring it as well. In the event it turned out that "reinstatement" meant a local organ builder moving merely the console and display pipes. He was allowed to walk off with all the innards. So much for heritage.

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6 hours ago, Choir Man said:

Are there any precedents for organs in hotels?

The Royal York Hotel in Toronto had a very large four-manual Casavant, but it's gone now.  Nearer to you, the Hydro in Crieff has a pretty little 12 stop Ingram.

 

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Hi

It's certainly a fine sounding organ, but I was glad I wasn't playing it for a special event back in the 1970's.  I was there to accompany a choir from another church on piano (a decent grand IIRC).  Anyway, back to the organ, the reason I was glad I wasn't at the console was the Pedal Posaune cyphered during the closing hymn - and wasn't silenced until the organist had switched off the blower & allowed the reservoir to empty - so it continued drom=ning at quite a substantial volume throughout the closing prayers etc.!

As to organs in hotels, NPOR E00216 shows a Wood Wordsworth house organ that was moved from it's previous home in East Sussex (where I played it a couple of times) when they  sold up and moved up North.  Last I heard it had been removed.

Every Blessing

Tony

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It may not count, as I don't think it was also an hotel, but the Plough at Great Munden, Hertfordshire, had a splendid Compton theatre organ, installed by the licensee, Gerald Carrington, who had worked for Comptons (he did the finishing at St. Olave, Hart Street, according to John Mee who was organist there).  Gerald made some improvements, including substituting a Wurlitzer wooden Tibia for the Compton metal one (sweeter sound) and adding a grand piano.  Alas, the pub is now a private house and the organ was taken into store.

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I wonder if any members of the Birmingham OA are on here still? Paul Carr and Contrebordun were members and may know or be able to find out more details.

I think that an organ in such a location would be a splendid idea; Sunday afternoon recitals could be quite a draw - a comfortable environment with no hard pews and a pot of tea with cakes. The cost of restoration to full working order would be a drop in the ocean for the developers although the ongoing problem of tuning and maintenance in a warm hotel might be daunting.

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