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Tales from the bench...


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I thought it would be good to liven up the forum with a tale of self administered misery.

In the early '90s I was good friends with Frank Bradbeer and received much of my early organ tuition from him, in return for a session in the local hostelry. During our long chats he would regale me with many stories of his time with Grant, Degens and Bradbeer and on the theory and practice of neo classical instruments with which that firm were mainly involved.

Frank was organist at St Mary's, Essendon, and a couple of weeks before Christmas one of the notes on the Cornopean stop went off speech, only emitting a squawk. No problem, said Frank, we just need to run a £5 note up between the tongue and the shallot to dislodge the dirt.

This seemed a fairly simple proposition, so we borrowed the bellringers' ladder and I hopped up to the passageboard between the Great and Swell. Having ascertained which was the miscreant pipe I lifted it carefully out by stretching my arm through the opened swell shutters, and passed it down to Frank who administered the remedial work and gave it a short toot to check all was well.

From memory the boot was about 8 inches long and the resonator was a wide cone of about 2 inches in height.

I passed the pipe back through the swell shutters on its side but as I was returning it to the vertical to put it back in the rack, the boot fell off the block and landed on the 3 rank mixture below. I was able to retrieve the boot and replace the complete assembly (which was now out of tune), but worse than this, several notes of the mixture were now VERY out of tune with a few pipes visibly bent.

Frank was surprisingly polite about it although I'm sure he was seething inside. The organ was then in the care of Saxon Aldred who, due to the pressure of Christmas tunings, was only able to remove the damaged pipes for repair in the New Year. Suffice it to say that Hark the Herald sounded "interesting" on Christmas morning!

Perhaps other members could relate stories from their days in service or "on the tools" (no clergy bashing please).


ps: If you look at the right hand end of the swell box at St Mary's (Willis 1883 with later alterations, particularly during Frank's tenure) you will see two carved oak pipe shades from the Rushworth and Dreaper organ at New College, Oxford which GDB replaced in 1969. I wonder how they got there....

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