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Your opinion required following ORGAN overhaul


Nathan
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A church I play the organ for had the organ overhauled 5/6 years back. I was pneumatic and now electro-pneumatic. A few divisionals put in and organ put back to as close as possible original stop spec. The cost was in the region of £60,000. Which is probably a usual cost for such things. However, since I took over the job (I used to play at the church 20 years previous) there have been many notes which don't work. The company (I wont name, but don't think they are on the forum anyway) gets most of the notes working on visits, some still remain intermittent. Earlier this year the builder suggested the organ 'requires a good days work of action regulation and general maintenance to overcome the settling down of the mechanism'. This was done (and charged for). Also seemed like an excuse to repair faults that shouldn't happen. Still a few notes don't sound and a few have stop working since. I can play chords that don't sound. Over Christmas, the trumpet on the great (the loudest stop on the organ) wouldn't stop sounding even with it in. I had to switch the organ off, which seemed to reset it. 

Should these type of faults happen so soon after an overhaul, or is it usual. Looking back through the organ maintenance book, there have been notes missing in action early on since the overhaul. Plus a few that don't stop straight away sounding after the key being released. Since the rebuild, the church now has blown heating installed which it seems also isn't ideal for organs. Am I expecting too much. Other organs (with similar action) I've played have had far less problems 20-30 years on since any major work.

I look forward to your thoughts.

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Should such faults happen after forking out large sums? Certainly not. Is it usual? I can't say, but it must be very much more common than it should be.

Speaking for myself, there are major, national firms who I would trust to do a proper, even Rolls-Royce, job. Then there are firms who are very reliable on the mechanical front, but who I would never ask to add extra stops because they lack the artistry. (I know of jobs where secondhand ranks have just been pulled off the factory shelf and plonked onto the soundboard without any attempt at revoicing them to blend with the existing pipework, with ghastly, inartistic results.) And then there are the notorious cowboys who one should never touch with a disinfected bargepole under any circumstances.  I could cite two jobs that were done so appallingly that the firms really should have been taken to court. In one case I actually recommended this, but the church declined because they thought it would be bad for their image. At another church an organist friend and I had advised very strongly against using the firm in question, but of course the priest knew better and so proceeded to waste £20,000, just to end up with an organ in the same, sorry state as before, albeit with one of the manuals needlessly electrified. 

One problem is that churches these days are hard up. Another possible problem, at least where I live, is that organ building is a dwindling profession, so that existing firms can barely cope with the tuning rounds they have, let alone rebuilds. Nevertheless, a customer does have a right to expect a competent job.

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4 hours ago, Vox Humana said:

Should such faults happen after forking out large sums? Certainly not. Is it usual? I can't say, but it must be very much more common than it should be.

Speaking for myself, there are major, national firms who I would trust to do a proper, even Rolls-Royce, job. Then there are firms who are very reliable on the mechanical front, but who I would never ask to add extra stops because they lack the artistry. (I know of jobs where secondhand ranks have just been pulled off the factory shelf and plonked onto the soundboard without any attempt at revoicing them to blend with the existing pipework, with ghastly, inartistic results.) And then there are the notorious cowboys who one should never touch with a disinfected bargepole under any circumstances.  I could cite two jobs that were done so appallingly that the firms really should have been taken to court. In one case I actually recommended this, but the church declined because they thought it would be bad for their image. At another church an organist friend and I had advised very strongly against using the firm in question, but of course the priest knew better and so proceeded to waste £20,000, just to end up with an organ in the same, sorry state as before, albeit with one of the manuals needlessly electrified. 

One problem is that churches these days are hard up. Another possible problem, at least where I live, is that organ building is a dwindling profession, so that existing firms can barely cope with the tuning rounds they have, let alone rebuilds. Nevertheless, a customer does have a right to expect a competent job.

Thanks for that. Another Organist, that also used to play at that church, said it's not satisfactory. He also knows of organs that have had huge amounts spent on them, with nothing seemingly improved. The only stop spec changes to this organ was moving two 2fts back to original 4th spec. Nothing major, and easy for a non organ builder to do.

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I am afraid £60k won't touch the sides for a complete restoration of an organ, including flooding the soundboards, releathering the action motors, releathering the reservoirs,  releathering the drawstop machines or replacing with solenoids, fitting a new transmission and capture system,  generally updating the console electrics (drawstop solenoids, contacts etc), repiecing the pedal sticks . . . . . the list goes on and on! 

Certainly any work done should last the test of time, however when work is done on an organ, it is often labelled as an overhaul or restoration when, in reality, the work was actually quite narrow in its scope.   The only way to know for sure is to get hold of the contract/schedule of the work done and perhaps ask the local DOA for advice or ask another Organ Builder to come and inspect the organ.

Blown air heating systems are dreadful things and can make trying to tune tricky. 

Adrian

 

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Thank you Adrian. Certainly makes sense and the sort of answer that does clear things up.

Reading you reply, I guess the amount spent would make a difference to the size of the organ. The bigger the organ, the smaller percentage of organ overhauled. This one is 3 manuals, 24 speaking stops. I do know the soundboards weren't replaced, possibly cleaned, and the heating system would be the cause of most issues with the solenoids and stop selection. 

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You say it was converted from t/pn (I assume) to e/pn. If so how much of it was converted? At £60K I wonder. New e/pn note actions and solid state transmissions just shouldn't go wrong in this timescale if installed correctly.

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3 hours ago, ajsphead said:

You say it was converted from t/pn (I assume) to e/pn. If so how much of it was converted? At £60K I wonder. New e/pn note actions and solid state transmissions just shouldn't go wrong in this timescale if installed correctly.

The keyboards and pedalboards were replaced (Old ones stored inside the organ) and now electric as with the stops, all using solenoids. That all connects to a computer ((I assume) that sorts it all out. Hope I've got the correct terminology for this. Looking in the organ, electric right up to the windchest (soundboard). You can connect midi to the organ, which will play all notes and stop selection. Only thing that doesn't work is swell pedal as that's still mechanical. If that helps work out how much is e/pn.

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I think you need to name names and location if you want any worthwhile help. If you are just relaying facts nobody can really complain.

It sounds like an unsatisfactory situation, but whether organ builder, heating or customer request is to blame we can't really judge without more info.

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19 hours ago, Nathan said:

The keyboards and pedalboards were replaced (Old ones stored inside the organ) and now electric as with the stops, all using solenoids. That all connects to a computer ((I assume) that sorts it all out. Hope I've got the correct terminology for this. Looking in the organ, electric right up to the windchest (soundboard). You can connect midi to the organ, which will play all notes and stop selection. Only thing that doesn't work is swell pedal as that's still mechanical. If that helps work out how much is e/pn.

So:

3 new keyboards, new pedalboard, new solid state transmission, new capture system with thumb and toe pistons, about 30-35 new stop solenoids +/- slider solenoids +/- new chest magnets and all new wiring for £60K. None of this should be affected by heating systems except warping the keyboards/pedalboard if in direct line of fire from blown hot air. However CB is correct, without precise detail and an inspection it's impossible to tell. I would suggest that you call an independent organ adviser to inspect and report.

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Thank you.

I will mostly likely be speaking to the  diocesan organ advisor. But if these issues are to be expected, I don't want to create unnecessary fuss, if these issue are to be expected. But based on playing similar action organs who's work was done decades previous, it seems unacceptable to me. A member who can log in but can't post, did manage to work out which organ it was. He also alerted me to a video of the renovation. Up to now the previous organist who is also the treasurer had engaged the tuner / repairer for maintenance and tuning. Even after those visits, I've still yet to have all notes working. He may just accept that is usual.

Below video of renovation.

 

 

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