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David Drinkell

Tuning at the Albert Hall

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This appeared on Facebook today.  Interesting, though I'm surprised that the Albert Hall organ is still referred to as being by Father Willis - surely it's stretching the point since it was modified so much by Arthur Harrison.

https://metro.co.uk/2018/10/15/my-odd-job-im-an-organ-tuner-in-charge-of-the-9999-pipes-of-the-organ-at-the-royal-albert-hall-7755715/?ito=article.amp.share.top.facebook

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The label on the music desk on the console says Harrison and Harrison, faithfully reinstated when we refurbished the organ. There is no mention of Willis on the console and also no mention of Mander either, I refused to have a Mander label put on the console because our job was to respect the job as it was and not to put our stamp on it. Also, the statement that there are 9999 is a myth put out by the consultant and others for no good reason. There are in fact 9997 pipes in the organ.

John

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That seems very modest, almost self-deprecating, as most people think that Mander’s rebuild corrected shortcomings in the RAH organ resulting in a noticeably improved instrument.  Was Arthur Harrison’s rebuild/ transformation so far-reaching (drastic?) as to justify expunging all reference to Father Willis on their builder’s name plate?  Put another way, does re-voicing the original builder’s pipework entitle the new builder to instal a name plate which, to anyone who doesn’t know the instrument’s history, gives the impression that the organ is wholly theirs?

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An interesting point Rowland. I see that Keble College now refer to their organ as the Tickell-Rufatti Organ. Although the revoicing was widely known, this change must be quite recent. I have neither the knowledge nor the competence to appreciate what the chain of events was, but this amended name is at least clearly descriptive.

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This is all an interesting argument and there are a lot of grey areas. Taking the RAH organ first, yes, a lot of what we did corrected shortcomings, in particular long-standing ones with the winding, which went right back to the original instrument by Willis, with the inadequate main trunk from the blowers. That, at last, enabled the pipework to get the wind it needed, no raising of pressures and no re-voicing. It speaks as it was meant to at last and in saying that, no criticism oh H&H whatsoever. I suspect we were able to do what H&H would have liked to do for some time.

So, the RAH organ retains its H&H label, because it remains very substantially, overwhelmingly so, an H&H organ, we believe, and if not, I would consider we had failed in our task. St Paul's Cathedral, however, is different. That instrument was changed dramatically from what it had been, so that organ does have a Mander label on the consoles. Similarly, Pembroke College Cambridge has no label, because it is an attempt to reconstruct what had been there many years before.

 

John

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