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Hello Everyone: It might be interesting to collect 'tips' for writing up a contract with an organ builder. Any personal experience? - no names or comany names -

 

I will start:

 

"Be sure to include the obvious liability issues. Who has insurance for who if someone is hurt on the job or if church/hall property is damaged."

 

 

WM

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Hello Everyone: It might be interesting to collect 'tips' for writing up a contract with an organ builder. Any personal experience? - no names or comany names -

 

I will start:

 

"Be sure to include the obvious liability issues. Who has insurance for who if someone is hurt on the job or if church/hall property is damaged."

WM

 

Obviously all that follows is highly subjective and IMHO:

 

Whichever company you go for, I think it would be a good idea to try to get it into the contract that your church council retains a percentage of the total sum until the successful completion of one year of use. This would look after a number of matters. Organs all need to settle into use and have time to adjust to their new enviroment. Out of the twenty or so opening recitals that I have given over the years, practically none of the instruments were in fact 'finished' in all senses of that word. Actually, a few of those instruments still remain 'un-finished' in my opinion. The strongest time to get anything agreed is before the work starts and while the builder is chasing the contract the hardest!

 

You do need to have a diocesan adviser properly on your team and involved. Although you may have to work hard to justify certain elements of your desired scheme, they can be extremely useful at chasing things up and in almost every case (even with the finest possible workmanship) you will have one or two points that need settling. Some firms can turn quite difficult to nail down at this stage. Someone whose opinion and influence really matters is vital.

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In reponse to Westgate Morris - all professional organbuilders will have insurance.

 

One thing we considered was if the organ builder was going to go bust, what would happen. One of our legal eagles got his talons quite into the subject... Nothing eventually ended up being added to the contract in the end - we decided it wasn't worth it...

 

One of the biggest problems with organ contracts is defining quality. An organ builder could build an organ to the letter of the contract but it could still be a poor organ. Yes, you can define everything down to the nth degree but still have a poor organ at the end of the day. The only way I can see around it is to be very clear how the organ is going to signed off and the acceptance criteria for the finished product. However, this needs to be clear and subjectivity can't be held to become too much of a burden or it becomes unfair on the organbuilder.

 

In gerenal, organbuilders will do the very best job they can, under the circumstances. It doesn't benefit them at all to build a poor or unsucessful organ so you can count on their nature to provide you with the best work they can possibly provide.

 

What the client needs to do is to foster and encourage a good relationship with the organbuilder, which stems from both parties having a shared vision of what they're aiming at and mutual respect and trust on both sides. There is, of course, the possibility that things will go wrong, and certain rules (mainly financial and business) are needed, for which the contract is about.

 

But both parties need to balance the risk of havign an extremely tight contract at the risk of damaging the relationship between client and organ builder by over-burdensome discussions of the contract that get in the way of building the best possible organ.

 

And I believe that it is always the aim to build the best possible organ, given the constraints of the situation (which can be financial, technical, architectural, temporal, political, etc...)

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Some of the more reputable organ builders used provide a discussion form of contract as a starting point. In it were the dates on which stage payments were due. I was always astounded by how often these payments dates were eleongated and on extreme occasions it was even necessary to close the job down until the money appeared.

 

The excuses for non payment were varied and interesting from "We need two signatures on the cheque and one of the people is away on a two month cruise" - to - "our treasurer is one of those people who never pay his bills until he get a threatening letter written in red". Having said this there were also many churches that were honourable and a pleasure to deal with.

 

There was always a problem that churches would not give the instrument a chance to settle down before the opening recital or dedication which could often be arranged to suit diaries without consulting the organ builder. I would like to think times have changed!

 

FF

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CH said...... "One of the biggest problems with organ contracts is defining quality. An organ builder could build an organ to the letter of the contract but it could still be a poor organ. Yes, you can define everything down to the nth degree but still have a poor organ at the end of the day. The only way I can see around it is to be very clear how the organ is going to signed off and the acceptance criteria for the finished product. However, this needs to be clear and subjectivity can't be held to become too much of a burden or it becomes unfair on the organbuilder.

 

In gerenal, organbuilders will do the very best job they can, under the circumstances. It doesn't benefit them at all to build a poor or unsucessful organ so you can count on their nature to provide you with the best work they can possibly provide.

 

What the client needs to do is to foster and encourage a good relationship with the organbuilder, which stems from both parties having a shared vision of what they're aiming at and mutual respect and trust on both sides. There is, of course, the possibility that things will go wrong, and certain rules (mainly financial and business) are needed, for which the contract is about."

 

 

Excellent points CH: ...how the organ is going to be signed off, foster and encourage a good relationship with the organbuilder...

 

 

WM

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Indeed - and good ways to damage a relationship with an organbuilder include:

 

* Late payment or arguing about payment

* Organising opening recitals before the organ has settled down. I know I have a date in mind for ours but am quite prepared to pull the plug if necessary...

 

(thanks Frank)

 

I think with the recent scare of EU directives that organbuilders needed the support of their existing clients in what was a difficult time. Our attitude was that we had a shared risk with the organbuilder in the project - that we had comitted a lot of our resources to the project, that the proposed EU legislation posed a major risk to the project - and hence to the resources we had expended. We were partners and shared the risk together. And we were quite prepared to become a test case in court if the worst case scenario occured.

 

I have since heard a few stories about other clients not being so understanding with the recent EU issues, to the extent that work has had to be halted, which I feel can only serve to damage the relationship between the organbuilder and client. I cannot help wonder whether those clients had really assessed the probability and impact of the risks sensibly, whether they had assessed whether they shared the risk with the organbuilder and what the impact of their action might have on the relationship with their builder if they decided not to act cooperatively.

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Indeed - and good ways to damage a relationship with an organbuilder include:

 

* Late payment or arguing about payment

* Organising opening recitals before the organ has settled down. I know I have a date in mind for ours but am quite prepared to pull the plug if necessary...

 

(thanks Frank)

 

I think with the recent scare of EU directives that organbuilders needed the support of their existing clients in what was a difficult time. Our attitude was that we had a shared risk with the organbuilder in the project - that we had comitted a lot of our resources to the project, that the proposed EU legislation posed a major risk to the project - and hence to the resources we had expended. We were partners and shared the risk together. And we were quite prepared to become a test case in court if the worst case scenario occured.

 

I have since heard a few stories about other clients not being so understanding with the recent EU issues, to the extent that work has had to be halted, which I feel can only serve to damage the relationship between the organbuilder and client. I cannot help wonder whether those clients had really assessed the probability and impact of the risks sensibly, whether they had assessed whether they shared the risk with the organbuilder and what the impact of their action might have on the relationship with their builder if they decided not to act cooperatively.

 

When I eventually write my book, I can devote a whole chapter to this subject. Good organbuilding costs money. A reputable company can normally be trusted but!...

 

I once put in a price of £250 for the releathering of some outside pneumatic motors of a soundboard. I received an unfortunate reply from the vicar that we were `robbers and profiteers' and that he had, and had accepted, an estimate to do the work for £75 from a local individual.

 

O.K. - we had been put in our place until said clergyman, after a year, wrote to the Fedreation to say that the motors had been recovered in a clingfilm type of plastic, not leather, and were splitting and what were `They' going to do about it.

 

The contract letter was produced and it seems simply stated that said motors would be recovered for the sum £75, no mention of `best quality sheepskin' or anything else. He had no case other than to show up greed and stupidity in not checking details to say nothing of jumping to conclusions!

 

FF

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Organising opening recitals before the organ has settled down. I know I have a date in mind for ours but am quite prepared to pull the plug if necessary...
I'm sure this would never happen in the UK (or at least I hope not), but a few years ago in South Carolina I played a 30-stop IIIP Moller which had been built in 1981. It had four stops "prepared for", three of them not insignificant ones: the Sw Mixture, the Sw 16' reed and the two Pedal reeds (Trombone 16' and Klarine 4'). Apparently this wasn't the usual "we'll get them put sometime when we have the money" scenario. Moller, who were a bit behind schedule with the instrument, heard that the opening recital was going ahead on the planned date. They told the church, "Then you have accepted the organ", deemed their contract fulfilled, packed up, went home and refused point blank to supply the remaining four stops. It wasn't too long after this that they went bust...
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I'm sure this would never happen in the UK (or at least I hope not), but a few years ago in South Carolina I played a 30-stop IIIP Moller which had been built in 1981. It had four stops "prepared for", three of them not insignificant ones: the Sw Mixture, the Sw 16' reed and the two Pedal reeds (Trombone 16' and Klarine 4'). Apparently this wasn't the usual "we'll get them put sometime when we have the money" scenario. Moller, who were a bit behind schedule with the instrument, heard that the opening recital was going ahead on the planned date. They told the church, "Then you have accepted the organ", deemed their contract fulfilled, packed up, went home and refused point blank to supply the remaining four stops. It wasn't too long after this that they went bust...

 

Presumably lawyers were called in! This might be American law? Unless written into the contract that the organ is regarded as finished and accepted after the first public service or recital I can not see this decision being upheld by a court in this country.

 

FF

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Presumably lawyers were called in! This might be American law?
Must be, thought I didn't enquire further. This is totally off topic, but a few days earlier I had stayed the night with a nice American couple in Winston-Salem and we got onto the subject of law. I mentioned how us Brits were often quite nonplussed at the decisions of American courts. "Oh, so are we Americans too," they heartily agreed and went on: "We just can't believe some of the decisions. The trouble is there are far too many lawyers in the states and they're all chasing work."

 

The following morning I had an hour or two to kill, so the wife took me on a sight-seeing tour of the city. As we were chatting I asked her what her husband did for a living. "Oh," she said, "he's a lawyer."

 

CLANG! :blink:

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Must be, thought I didn't enquire further. This is totally off topic, but a few days earlier I had stayed the night with a nice American couple in Winston-Salem and we got onto the subject of law. I mentioned how us Brits were often quite nonplussed at the decisions of American courts. "Oh, so are we Americans too," they heartily agreed and went on: "We just can't believe some of the decisions. The trouble is there are far too many lawyers in the states and they're all chasing work."

 

The following morning I had an hour or two to kill, so the wife took me on a sight-seeing tour of the city. As we were chatting I asked her what her husband did for a living. "Oh," she said, "he's a lawyer."

 

CLANG!  :(

 

Bummer....

:blink:

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The contract letter was produced and it seems simply stated that said motors would be recovered for the sum £75, no mention of `best quality sheepskin' or anything else. He had no case other than to show up greed and stupidity in not checking details to say nothing of jumping to conclusions!

 

FF

 

I conclude the tip to be: Be sure contracts state materials. Understand what materials are needed to do the job and don't accept a contract based only on price.

 

 

A new tip: Ask around and check with other churches that have gone through the process. Invite the organist out for a coffee. :huh::huh:

 

 

WM

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Presumably lawyers were called in! This might be American law? Unless written into the contract that the organ is regarded as finished and accepted after the first public service or recital I can not see this decision being upheld by a court in this country.

 

FF

Well maybe or maybe not - the client may, perhaps, have been less than forthcoming in meeting some of his responsibilities (access, completion of building works, time and silence for voicing, revisions to power supplies, final option decisions, timely payments etc) and the builder seized on an opportunity to 'cut and run' on a 'no win' loss-making contract. I ran into similar issues in the IT world and it wasn't always that easy to sort out the rights and wrongs - much is remarkably clear in hindsight! I absolutely agree that usually the problem goes back to insufficient discussion of these issues at the beginning ('we'll work it out later') and hence a lack of clarity at contract time about who actaully has to do what by when, how difficulties are to be managed, definitions of 'finished' and 'accepted' (absolutely not the same thing!) and the respective roles (and limits) of client and supplier in determining and agreeing progress and the consequential financial implications (which is where the heat usually comes).

 

Clearly an unscrupulous client could drags things out for months after the instrument is effectively in use and a builder could succumb to the temptation to move effort onto the next job after initial installation and well before final completion so both parties do need some protection. Serious disagreements usually boil down to a mismatch of expectations/assumptions that should have been agreed 'upfront', and a lack of understanding of the impact of cash flow changes (both ways). Colin hit the nail on the head in saying this is about trust and joint commitment - not things that fit that easily in a contract - but which are part of a real relationship, built on extensive discussions and a high degree of openness about what is/isn't on offer and a continuing dialogue during the project. Silence at any stage should be regarded as a major concern - there are bound to be problems; what matters is whether you work together to fix then or use them as an excuse to re-open old negotiations. The contract should set out a clear framework for the joint identification and management of this.

 

One technique we used was a joint project risk register (looking at what could affect time, money, quality etc) - this was created pre contract and then reviewed fortightly during the project - we could all see what might hit us, when and what it might mean in time to discuss implications rationally and agree the trade offs - though we didn't allow for the impact of a major structural problem with the building ..........

 

My first boss frequently reminded us trainees that contracts were things that you hoped never to refer to once they were signed since 'They tell you how to apportion blame if things fail - not how to fix it when it gets hard'.

 

I do support the idea of a payment retention post delivery - provided a) it is agreed up front (and hence to some extent factored into the builder's cash flow) and not 'sprung' on them; :huh: it is big enough to matter; and c) there is an 'end point' - such as the 'Dedication and re-opening recital' or whatever - which should focus both party's minds (assuming they mind their reputations etc) on closing out positively.

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Well maybe or maybe not - the client may, perhaps, have been less than forthcoming in meeting some of his responsibilities (access, completion of building works, time and silence for voicing, revisions to power supplies, final option decisions, timely payments etc) and the builder seized on an opportunity to 'cut and run' on a 'no win' loss-making contract. I ran into similar issues in the IT world and it wasn't always that easy to sort out the rights and wrongs - much is remarkably clear in hindsight! I absolutely agree that usually the problem goes back to insufficient discussion of these issues at the beginning ('we'll work it out later') and hence a lack of clarity at contract time about who actaully has to do what by when, how difficulties are to be managed, definitions of 'finished' and 'accepted' (absolutely not the same thing!) and the respective roles (and limits) of client and supplier in determining and agreeing progress and the consequential financial implications (which is where the heat usually comes).

 

Clearly an unscrupulous client could drags things out for months after the instrument is effectively in use and a builder could succumb to the temptation to move effort onto the next job after initial installation and well before final completion so both parties do need some protection. Serious disagreements usually boil down to a mismatch of expectations/assumptions that should have been agreed 'upfront', and a lack of understanding of the impact of cash flow changes (both ways). Colin hit the nail on the head in saying this is about trust and joint commitment - not things that fit that easily in a contract - but which are part of a real relationship, built on extensive discussions and a high degree of openness about what is/isn't on offer and a continuing dialogue during the project.  Silence at any stage should be regarded as a major concern - there are bound to be problems; what matters is whether you work together to fix then or use them as an excuse to re-open old negotiations.  The contract should set out a clear framework for the joint identification and management of this. 

 

One technique we used was a joint project risk register (looking at what could affect time, money, quality etc) - this was created pre contract and then reviewed fortightly during the project - we could all see what might hit us, when and what it might mean in time to discuss implications rationally and agree the trade offs - though we didn't allow for the impact of a major structural problem with the building ..........

 

My first boss frequently reminded us trainees that contracts were things that you hoped never to refer to once they were signed since 'They tell you how to apportion blame if things fail - not how to fix it when it gets hard'.

 

I do support the idea of a payment retention post delivery - provided a) it is agreed up front (and hence to some extent factored into the builder's cash flow) and not 'sprung' on them; :huh: it is big enough to matter; and c) there is an 'end point' - such as the 'Dedication and re-opening recital' or whatever - which should focus both party's minds (assuming they mind their reputations etc) on closing out positively.

 

It is sad and a fact of life that most things that went wrong were few and far between - but these are the intresting matters. I must express my thanks and rescpect to nearly all ouf our clients for whom all went well on both sides.

 

No doubt I shall continue to mention `the few' when the occasion merits it. :huh:

 

FF

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Greetings,

 

      Did you get to see St. Paul's and it's Skinner organ?

 

       Best,

 

            Nathan

Hi Nathan. I did indeed! A fine, noble sound with immense integrity. I was interested that it had a Choir Nazard but no partnering 2'. I also found this on the Skinner at Portland Cathedral, Maine, last year. A Skinner characteristic?
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Hi Nathan. I did indeed! A fine, noble sound with immense integrity. I was interested that it had a Choir Nazard but no partnering 2'. I also found this on the Skinner at Portland Cathedral, Maine, last year. A Skinner characteristic?

 

 

Greetings,

 

If not a characteristic, perhaps more of an illustration of Mr. Skinner's priorities vis-a-vis the first stop to get the "axe" when the organ needs to be shoehorned into the chamber as St. Paul's is. The much earlier instrument at St. Luke's Evanston IL for instance is nine ranks larger and has a Choir 2'; the implication being that this instrument being from Mr. Skinner's earlier work (before his second trip to Willis) had one, so that there was some sort of practical reason barring its inclusion at Winston-Salem. Interestingly the 1926 instrument at the Toledo Museum of Art is two ranks smaller and has a Choir 2'.

 

It is also not unknown for the salesman/consultant to have had a little bit of say in the stoplist, as most notably evidenced in the John Bell Skinners which had huge leathered First Diapasons as a rule. The afore-mentioned Toledo instrument was designed by Lynnwood Farnam and bears several peculiar ranks and console devices as a result.

 

At any rate, if the St. Pauls instrument was to be installed tight in the beginning, the matter was put beyond all doubt when we feel the 32' metal Bombarde extension (the first of its kind in a Skinner) was added to the specification after construction had started. A trip to the Great/Solo/Choir chamber will show the diatonic Great chest mounted sideways to accommodate the 32' octave of the reed - a chest that undoubtedly would have been chromatic if it were intended to rest in that position originally.

 

As for the Swell chamber, I trust you received a thorough inauguration from the reed chorus located therein! (C: Did you like the Swell cornet?

 

To bring this posting on-topic, I would think that a contract should include some provision for changes to the design of the instrument and all that such decisions would require.

 

Best,

 

Nathan

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As for the Swell chamber, I trust you received a thorough inauguration from the reed chorus located therein!
Oh yes! Nice idea of Skinner's to have a Waldhorn 16' (instead of whatever was originally envisaged) so that it could be borrowed on the Pedal to function rather like a Violone (which indeed it does). The Waldhorn, Cornopean and Clarion are a very fine sound. For a Sw reed the French Trumpet was pretty damned devastating, but I've noticed that in America the Sw reed chorus is quite often somewhat more assertive at 8' pitch than is typical in Britain. I'm ashamed to say I don't remember the Cornet.
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