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Mander Organs
John Mitchell

Prepared For

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How many times have I seen those fateful words on consoles around the world. They denote an unfinished job, usually when a church runs out of money before the tonal scheme has been completed. In my experience those stops never get installed and the console promises what the organ doesn't provide. I get the feeling that the congregation get used to what they hear and don't see the need for any more. On one organ I played a whole manual  was missing. The chest was there and the action connected up, but no pipes at all. In another church various stops, including a pedal reed were prepared for, but 40 years later they were still missing. Nowadays if a builder offers me a scheme that involves 'prepared for' stops I just say 'No thank you'. I wonder if other members have had the same experience.

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I vaguely recall that this subject came up here (or was it somewhere else?) a few years ago and the general opinion seemed to be that "prepared for" stops often did end up getting installed. I have to say emphatically that that has not been my experience. Unless the church is musically enlightened, or has a particularly persuasive organist, the attitude usually runs along the lines of, "the organ supports the congregation perfectly well as it is, the tuning already costs us an arm and a leg (and why do we have to pay so much when Ruth and Mary do the flowers for free?) and we have more pressing things to spend our money on," so nothing ever happens.

My local parish church used to have a three manual console, but the Choir section was prepared for and the keys of the bottom manual did not depress. Forgetting this and moving inadvertently to the bottom manual was like diving into a swimming pool without water (or so I imagine). When the organ was renovated a few years ago at considerable expense the firm removed the manual - the only thing they did efficiently.

I was never faced with the problem myself, but privately I always swore that I would never countenance agreeing to "prepared for" elements.

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Hunter used to be well-known, for providing organs with much of the pipes prepared-for.  St. Cuthbert's, Philbeach Gardens, London, was an example, later partly completed by Compton.  At least in such cases, everything was in apart from the pipes - soundboards, stop-knobs, piston action, etc - which is much more promising than wishful stop-knobs or a gap below the Great keys.  It has been known for a prepared-for Choir manual to be adapted later as a coupler manual.  Long Melford, Suffolk, is an example.  When Father Willis built a two-manual organ for Old St. Paul's, Edinburgh, he advised the organist to have just the wood Open Diapason on the Pedal, because the congregation would be forced to cough up for the prepared-for Bourdon within months.  He was, however, several decades out in his guess.

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One place where I believe “be prepared” will eventually translate into “it is finished” is the Basilica of the Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, construction of which was begun in 1882. Present estimates for its completion centre around the year 2026. It’s quite hard to get concrete information about the organ, but some years ago when visiting I read that Gaudi’s original vision was as follows: specially designed tubular bells would hang in some of the towers and huge organ pipes would hang in others. On a Sunday morning the doors of the Basilica would be flung open and the entire population of Barcelona would hear a 1000 voice choir singing Gregorian chant, accompanied by giant tubular bells and the enormous organ.

 

The remaining towers are gradually being built. I’m not sure if the plans still include pipes for the towers, but it seems there will eventually be at least 8000 pipes distributed around the building, The present organ, which will form part of the completed instrument, has 1500 pipes. The organ builder is Blancafort of Montserrat. 

 

I can’t wait to hear the finished organ! I wonder what they’ll play at the inaugural recital?

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13 hours ago, Zimbelstern said:

I can’t wait to hear the finished organ! I wonder what they’ll play at the inaugural recital?

 

Mike Oldfield. Rachmaninoff. 1812 Overture. Byrd. Ding Dong Merrily on High. :unsure:

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On 09/04/2018 at 15:13, timothyguntrip said:

Here is an example!

 

I see it's a Harrison organ and I regret to say that they seem to specialise in 'Prepared For' stops. Probably because their instruments are so expensive in the first place. When we were planning a new or used organ at my last church I rang Mark Venning  and asked him for an estimate. He quoted me an eye watering price, but said that much of the design could be prepared for. I told him to forget it!

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When Impington Church, Cambridgeshire, consulted Dr. Rootham of St. John's College about their organ in the late twenties, he advised them to go to Harrisons' and under no circumstances to use the local firm of Miller.  In 1927, "Mr Arthur" submitted a scheme for a two manual with seven speaking stops (Great Open Diapason 8, Claribel Flute 8, Octave 4, Swell Viola da Gamba 8, Lieblich Gedackt 8, Octave Coupler, Pedal Sub Bass 16, tracker manual action, Pedal pneumatic) for seven hundred and twenty pounds. This was a shock to the parish, who were not thinking about a new organ and certainly did not realise how much one from a market-leader like Harrison would cost.  Harrisons' then made repairs to the existing organ (a two-manual of dubious and probably amateur make) for sixty-eight pounds, but the instrument was too poor and too far gone for any lasting improvement.

In 1934, Millers' quoted for an organ of eleven speaking stops, prepared for one more on each manual, for three hundred and eighty pounds and clinched the deal by throwing in a free tremulant.  The organ was a perfectly respectable job, with tracker action to the manuals, a steel building frame and a not-unpleasant front, and after Norman Hall & Sons renovated it in 1976, adding a Fifteenth on the Great spare slide and a Mixture on the Swell, it became notably fine.  It was, as far as I know, the last organ Millers' built., the organ side of the business dwindling to a tuning round and restoration work until it was bought out and rejuvenated by E.J. Johnson in the fifties (the music shop part of the firm changed hands several times, but was back in the family when I investigated in the late eighties).

http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D00211

There is a lot of material in the Cambridgeshire Record Office relating to Impington organs, which I used for an article in 'The Organ' Volume 68, Number 268, April 1989 (I wrote several articles about Miller, for which firm I had, and have, a good deal of admiration around that time).  It's an interesting saga....

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Porritt left a spare slide on the Swell at Whitchurch in 1880.  It may have been intended for a 4' flute or similar.  It was filled by Robin Rance in 1990 with a 2 rank mixture (19, 22 breaking to 12,15 at c37).  It took 110 years but the mixture 'makes' the instrument.  The overhaul was done on the advice of Charles Padgham (author of 'The Well Tempered Organ')  who lived in Church Headland Lane, and saved it from being binned and replaced by an electronic.  His former house organ with its glued paper bass pipes remains in use at Dunton.

 

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The Great mixture on the Wordsworth and Makell organ in St Salvador's Episcopal Church, Dundee was prepared for in 1882, and finally installed by Harrison's in 1997: http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=D00481

I'm sure someone will come up with a longer example, but 115 years slightly beats the Whitchurch organ mentioned above. 

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