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Lesser-known Town Hall Organs

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I forgot to mention  DOVER TOWN HALL

whilst I was working on the Railway ships at Dover in the mid 1970's I frequently attended recitals at the Town Hall given by the Borough organist - Reg Adams.(I think).  A 4 man Norman and Beard occupying 3 sides of the Hall.  Quite often some of the great piano concertos were played with himself playing the orcehstral part on the organ.

The organ has long since been thrown away for scrap.

 

I thought it was more a case of silenced pending a huge pile of cash.

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Guest Andrew Butler

Reg Adams was a brilliant musician. He has only fairly recently completely retired, following a bad fall, from playing - in fact I succeded him as "Thursday Organist" at Margate Crematorium, about 18 months ago. As far as I know he is in reasonable health for his advanced age, but very frail, and with poore eyesight. His playing ability was undiminished right up to his deciding to stand down.

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Reg Adams was a brilliant musician.  He has only fairly recently completely retired, following a bad fall, from playing - in fact I succeded him as "Thursday Organist" at Margate Crematorium, about 18 months ago.  As far as I know he is in reasonable health for his advanced age, but very frail, and with poore eyesight.  His playing ability was undiminished right up to his deciding to stand down.

 

 

Hello Andrew Butler. Sorry to hear about Reg Adams, yes, although it was 30 years since I heard him he was indeed a brilliant musician. Tell me can you find out what happened to the organ in Dover Town Hall. I thought it was scrapped many years ago. I rang the Town Hall this afternoon and they are endeavouring to find out. Certainly Reg would know, and I would have thought organists in the area would also know.

I am in Hereford with our fine Father Willis.

Thank you

Michael Sullivan.

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Hello Andrew Butler.  Sorry to hear about Reg Adams, yes, although it was 30 years since I heard him he was indeed a brilliant musician.  Tell me can you find out what happened to the organ in Dover Town Hall.  I thought it was scrapped many years ago.  I rang the Town Hall this afternoon and they are endeavouring to find out.  Certainly Reg would know, and I would have thought organists in the area would also know.

I am in Hereford with our fine Father Willis.

Thank you

Michael Sullivan.

This is intriguing - I'm sure we are all hoping it IS still in situ.

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I emailed them this morning - no reply as yet.

 

I cant believe that the organ could have been scrapped without someone picking up on it

 

I worked on it maybe 15 years ago, when the main breakdown bellows in the blower room needed to be releathered. It was a vast reservoir, with 150 weights on it! the only way to get it out of the building was to cut it in half and then releather it as two linked units. Less than five years on from that I heard that they disconnected the console (which was a four manual HNB horseshoe type) and had no plans to reconnect...... The rest of the organ may still be there as it was reasonably high up on pillars.

 

Another instrument is the 3 manual N & B in Colchester Town Hall. Sadly I had to give up on it earlier this year as it has so many leaks, the bellows wouldnt go up. A shame because the Council obviously dont really care whether it works or not. And what an accoustic!

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I emailed them this morning - no reply as yet.

 

I cant believe that the organ could have been scrapped without someone picking up on it

:lol:

 

 

DOVER TOWN HALL ORGAN

Sorry I was wrong. I telephoned the Town Hall this morning and spoke to a Ron Densham who is the Assistant Manager there. It seems that when I looked in about 6 years ago I looked in the Stone Hall whereas the organ is in the Connaught Hall on the left. (after a gap of 30 years it is impossible to remember in which room an organ was situated). He has given me the following information:

 

The organ ceased to be used about 25 years ago, and the console is now stored downstairs. The pipes are still there. About 1 year to 18 months ago a local lady died and left a substantial sum of money for ' music for SE Kent'. It was felt that possibly the Town Hall organ could be restored. Therefore the trustees brought over a GERMAN ! organ firm who declared the organ to be in not a bad condition, and quoted about £200,000 for its restoration. They would have to take it back to their workshops in Germany and the whole project would take perhaps 1 year. Anyway that idea unfortunately came to nothing. Now what ? It doesn't look promising. :D

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MIDDLESBOROUGH TOWN HALL ORGAN>

 

Now that we know more about Dover Town Hall organ, what about the fine Hill in Middlesborough Town Hall. ? Come along you northern organists tell us something about that ? My own experience, as I mentioned earlier, dates from the mid 1970's when I was friendly with the Borough organist - Eddie Dalby. At that time the organ was in reasonable condition and recitals were given. I do recall one unfortunate occasion when the Tuba cyphered at the beginning of a Dupre piece I think causing the unfortunate organist to have a fit of the vapours. Who was this ? a very nice lady I recall - Jane Parker Smith ? Jane Watts ? (young and dark haired I recall). I forget.

As this organ is never mentioned I assume it has fallen into disuse, although I don't doubt that it is still physically in situ.

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Another instrument is the 3 manual N & B in Colchester Town Hall. Sadly I had to give up on it earlier this year as it has so many leaks, the bellows wouldnt go up. A shame because the Council obviously dont really care whether it works or not. And what an accoustic!

 

COLCHESTER TOWN HALL.

Tell us more mr DeVile. I never knew there was an organ there. I looked this up on the NPOR, but they are notoriously unreliable in their information at times and it said that it was tuned in 2005. Now you say it is in a state of total collapse. There are plans to rebuild it with electric action and add pedal reeds I understand. Can you add anything more up to date ? Maybe you could correct the NPOR entry.

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:(

DOVER TOWN HALL ORGAN

Sorry I was wrong.  I telephoned the Town Hall this morning and spoke to a Ron Densham who is the Assistant Manager there.  It seems that when I looked in about 6 years ago I looked in the Stone Hall whereas the organ is in the Connaught Hall on the left.  (after a gap of 30 years it is impossible to remember in which room an organ was situated).  He has given me the following information:

 

The organ ceased to be used about 25 years ago, and the console is now stored downstairs.  The pipes are still there.  About 1 year to 18 months ago a local lady died and left a substantial sum of money for ' music for SE Kent'.  It was felt that possibly the Town Hall organ could be restored.  Therefore the trustees brought over a GERMAN ! organ firm who declared the organ to be in not a bad condition, and quoted about £200,000 for its restoration.  They would have to take it back to their workshops in Germany and the whole project would take perhaps 1 year.  Anyway that idea unfortunately came to nothing.  Now what ?  It doesn't look promising. :(

 

This is what I got from Thanet Leisure Force, the people that run the Town Hall on behalf of Dover District Council

"Further to your request I can confirm that the organ is still on site as it was when Thanet Leisureforce took over the operation of the Dover Town Hall back in November 2003.

 

I have made enquiries as to the approx cost to have it repaired / restored which is in the region of £200k.

 

This sum of money could not be justified commercially for us to consider but in my opinion could form part of a Cultural bid for Lottery money – should DDC wish to pursue.

 

Dover Choral Society have show interest in the past in backing a bid for money but to date no real action has taken place.

 

 

 

I hopes this answers your questions and do not hesitate to contact me should you require any further assistance

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COLCHESTER TOWN HALL.

Tell us more mr DeVile.  I never knew there was an organ there.  I looked this up on the NPOR, but they are notoriously unreliable in their information at times  and it said that it was tuned in 2005.  Now you say it is in a state of total collapse.  There are plans to rebuild it with electric action and add pedal reeds I understand.  Can you add anything more up to date ?  Maybe you could correct the NPOR entry.

 

I tuned the organ - well as much as was possible - last year, though the leakage was such that it was difficult to hear properly inside the instrument!

 

Between February and Easter this year we had an extremely dry spell (as many organ builders will tell you) which caused havoc to many organs, especially pneumatic ones and more especially exhaust pneumatic ones, which cypher when leaking rather than simply not working.

 

When I turned up to tune in April, there were so many leaks that the bellows wouldn't rise and when I managed to get one to do something, all of the pneumatic pistons jammed half on. I know when I am beaten!

 

As I said earlier, it is a great shame because it is in a hall with a barrel-vault ceiling, thus creating a perfect accoustic and the organ when going makes a very good sound and deserves to be kept playing. I have given numerous quotations to the council for restoration or electrification and each time they have made excited noises, but then forgotten about it.

 

If anyone feels inclined to give Colchester Borough Council a prod, please do!

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I am so sorry to hear from Peter de Ville that the Colchester Town Hall or Moot Hall as it is locally known is now nearly defunct. I have many fond memories of attending the Saturday afternoon recitals in the 1960's given by the then Borough Organist, Leonard Simpson. Such a wonderful mix of music and performed with some panache as a Town Hall organist should . The N&B organ was, as I remember, pretty typical of the era with a strong emphasis on large opens and strong flutes but also some very pleasant string sounds and smooth reeds.

 

Having in the past worked for Bishop and Son for 15 years I must also add to the list the organ in Ipswich Town Hall; well Corn Exchange to be precise but it is part of the same building and owned by the Council. This is the organ taken out of Holy Trinity, Paddington, London after its closure in 1971. It was an 1876 Lewis rebuilt by N&B about 1912 I believe and then they did some additional work as HN&B in 1957. Bishops tok it out of the Paddington and completely rebuilt it for the Corn Exchange in 1975. I well remember working against the clock to get it out of the church as the lead from the roof had been stolen and water was getting in. As we worked one after another of the lights blew up as the water penetrated!

 

This one is still playable but has suffered. perversely from a leaking roof about 3 times! Bishops have managed to do a number of repairs and all was working well last Christmas as far as I know.

 

I now live in the US, cloes to Portland, Maine where the on of the very few city organs of the US is in the local City Hall. Many of you will know of the "Kotzschmar" a 1912, 5 manual Austin organ with 229 stops including a 32ft Diaphone which actually works. I have been working for David Wallace Organ Builder who carried out a major rebuild of this instrument in 2000. Edward Lamare

was a past organist here.

 

Hope all this is interesting to some of you and good luck with trying to shame some local councils into keeping and restoring their organs.

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I know it's not exactly a 'lesser-known' Town Hall, but on the subject - Have there been any serious proposals for dealing with the Manchester Town Hall Cavaille-Coll in recent years?

 

Having visited it for the first time in January (currently resident in Sydney) I was struck by how magnificent the case is within the Hall (The NPOR photo really does it no justice) - How much of the Cavaille-Coll pipework has survived in amongst the Lewis and Jardine?

 

---------------------------

 

Incidentally, with regard to Town Halls around the colonies, (I can think of one not-exactly-obscure example nearby) The former organ in Adelaide Town Hall (W.Hill 1875 3/37) is undergoing a thorough restoration in a new home after its disfiguration in the 70's and removal in the 90's.

 

http://www.ohta.org.au/other/hillappeal.html

 

If the tonal and mechanical restoration is anything like the cosmetic restoration already evident, it will be an exciting new addition (or should I say new edition) to Australia's already impressive stable of civic organs.

 

sa_ath.jpg

HIllfacade2.jpg

 

 

I believe similar movements are getting underway in New Zealand.

 

Thanks

 

JG

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COLCHESTER TOWN HALL.

Tell us more mr DeVile.  I never knew there was an organ there.  I looked this up on the NPOR, but they are notoriously unreliable in their information at times  and it said that it was tuned in 2005.  Now you say it is in a state of total collapse.  There are plans to rebuild it with electric action and add pedal reeds I understand.  Can you add anything more up to date ?  Maybe you could correct the NPOR entry.

 

Hi

 

I doubt if Peter can add any more, as it was he who tuned the organ in 2005 and supplied the NPOR update.

 

I find your comments about NPOR somewhat less than helpful - like any information source, it is only as good as the sources of the information. We do not have the resources to visit every organ that we get information on to check on the reliability! (And we certainly can't visit those that are no longer in existence). Published information is also not always reliable - it's not easy trying to sort out what the truth really is. The key to using NPOR properly is to take note of the survey date and the latest update, and the recorded "state" of the organ (which, of course is only valid for the time it was seen and recorded, which may be anything up to 100 years ago). If you have any corrections, then let us know at the NPOR office and we will may corrections - please include the source of your information.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony (NPOR Editor)

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Hi

 

I doubt if Peter can add any more, as it was he who tuned the organ in 2005 and supplied the NPOR update.

 

I find your comments about NPOR somewhat less than helpful - like any information source, it is only as good as the sources of the information.  We do not have the resources to visit every organ that we get information on to check on the reliability!  (And we certainly can't visit those that are no longer in existence).  Published information is also not always reliable - it's not easy trying to sort out what the truth really is.  The key to using NPOR properly is to take note of the survey date and the latest update, and the recorded "state" of the organ (which, of course is only valid for the time it was seen and recorded, which may be anything up to 100 years ago).  If you have any corrections, then let us know at the NPOR office and we will may corrections - please include the source of your information.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony (NPOR Editor)

 

 

You got in with this before me Tony - thanks for all the continuing work!

 

AJJ

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Hi

 

I doubt if Peter can add any more, as it was he who tuned the organ in 2005 and supplied the NPOR update.

 

I find your comments about NPOR somewhat less than helpful - like any information source, it is only as good as the sources of the information.  We do not have the resources to visit every organ that we get information on to check on the reliability!  (And we certainly can't visit those that are no longer in existence).  Published information is also not always reliable - it's not easy trying to sort out what the truth really is.  The key to using NPOR properly is to take note of the survey date and the latest update, and the recorded "state" of the organ (which, of course is only valid for the time it was seen and recorded, which may be anything up to 100 years ago).  If you have any corrections, then let us know at the NPOR office and we will may corrections - please include the source of your information.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony (NPOR Editor)

 

Tony,

 

Useful information, the NPOR is a great resource.

 

About ten years ago I played for a wedding at St Saviour's RC Parish Church, in Lewisham High Street (London SE). The organ was a 3-manual instrument, all in good nick, bearing a Gray and Davison nameplate. I can find no trace of the Church (built c. 1909) on the database. I wonder if anyone else has had a more recent encounter with this instrument?

 

Cheers,

 

Matthew

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Hi

 

I doubt if Peter can add any more, as it was he who tuned the organ in 2005 and supplied the NPOR update.

 

I find your comments about NPOR somewhat less than helpful - like any information source, it is only as good as the sources of the information.  We do not have the resources to visit every organ that we get information on to check on the reliability!  (And we certainly can't visit those that are no longer in existence).  Published information is also not always reliable - it's not easy trying to sort out what the truth really is.  The key to using NPOR properly is to take note of the survey date and the latest update, and the recorded "state" of the organ (which, of course is only valid for the time it was seen and recorded, which may be anything up to 100 years ago).  If you have any corrections, then let us know at the NPOR office and we will may corrections - please include the source of your information.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony (NPOR Editor)

 

Good afternoon Mr Newnham

I stand by what I said perhaps I shall omit the word "notoriously" when I described NPOR as unreliable, perhaps I should add on occasions. Possibly you can now insert against Colchester Town Hall organ - unplayable 2006; also I note that when looking up Darlaston Town Hall the survey date was 1903 with NO updates. Does that mean that in the intervening 103 years no one with NPOR connections has visited it ? I went about 15 years ago and it was playable then.

Regards M.S.

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MIDDLESBOROUGH TOWN HALL ORGAN>

 

Now that we know more about Dover Town Hall organ, what about the fine Hill in Middlesborough Town Hall. ?  Come along you northern organists tell us something about that ?  My own experience, as I mentioned earlier, dates from the mid 1970's when I was friendly with the Borough organist - Eddie Dalby.  At that time the organ was in reasonable condition and recitals were given.  I do recall one unfortunate occasion when the Tuba cyphered at the beginning of a Dupre piece I think causing the unfortunate organist to have a fit of the vapours.  Who was this ?  a very nice lady I recall -  Jane Parker Smith ?  Jane Watts ? (young and dark haired I recall).  I forget.

As this organ is never mentioned I assume it has fallen into disuse, although I don't doubt that it is still physically in situ.

I have a newspaper cutting about Middlesbrough TH organ dating from about 1995. It concerned a proposed £200, 000 restoration scheme (no builder named) and a pending lottery application, the hope being to have the instrument restored by 1998 - its centenary. The organ was last overhauled c.1973, allegedly by HN&B although I understand John T. Jackson carried it out.

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Guest Andrew Butler

The onus is on all of us to notify NPOR of any changes/omissions/updates (although it was much easier on the old site where you could open an e-mail message direct from each survey, with the index number all ready in the subject box - sorry to bang on about that, Tony!) One does not need "NPOR connections" to do this.

 

When ever I play anywhere new (funerals etc) I note the spec and builders details (if available) and check against the NPOR entry if there is one, submitting details if necessary. I have supplied two completely new surveys recently (St Nicholas, Sandhurst, Kent - yuk! Contender for "Worst Organ" thanks to what has been done to it, poor thing) and St Michael and all Angels, Marden, Kent (may be of interest to "Organs In The Round" thread?)

 

Can I suggest that we all redouble our efforts to ensure details of instruments known to us are up to date? If all forum members verified details of all the instruments with which they were familiar, that would be a heck of a lot of up-to-date entries.

 

I must admit though that I am guilty of always forgetting to check man and ped compasses!

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Good afternoon Mr Newnham

I stand by what I said perhaps I shall omit the word "notoriously" when I described NPOR as unreliable, perhaps I should add on occasions.  Possibly you can now insert against Colchester Town Hall organ - unplayable 2006;  also I note that when looking up Darlaston Town Hall the survey date was 1903 with NO updates.  Does that mean that in the intervening 103 years no one with NPOR connections has visited it ?  I went about 15 years ago and it was playable then.

Regards M.S.

 

Hi

 

Re Darlaston - that's exactly the situation - no one has informed us of any changes. The survey may well come from a historic source (most likely with a 1903 survey date). We do our best - but if people don't give us information it can't be processed and included in the register.

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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The onus is on all of us to notify NPOR of any changes/omissions/updates (although it was much easier on the old site where you could open an e-mail message direct from each survey, with the index number all ready in the subject box - sorry to bang on about that, Tony!)  One does not need "NPOR connections" to do this.

 

When ever I play anywhere new (funerals etc) I note the spec and builders details (if available) and check against the NPOR entry if there is one, submitting details if necessary.  I have supplied two completely new surveys recently (St Nicholas, Sandhurst, Kent - yuk! Contender for "Worst Organ" thanks to what has been done to it, poor thing) and St Michael and all Angels, Marden, Kent (may be of interest to "Organs In The Round" thread?)

 

Can I suggest that we all redouble our efforts to ensure details of instruments known to us are up to date?  If all forum members verified details of all the instruments with which they were familiar, that would be a heck of a lot of up-to-date entries.

 

I must admit though that I am guilty of always forgetting to check man and ped compasses!

 

Hi Andrew

 

Many thanks for the support! I actually dealt with the 2 updates that you mention. Althoguh we would all prefer to have full information on every organ, whatever is available is more than welcome (and I've forgotten to note details as well and I usually spend a day a week processiong entries!)

 

The minimum requirement to trigger an NPOR survey is that a pipe organ was present in a building on a particular date, and usually one other significant detail (e.g. name of builder). Less info than that usually just gets added to the building record and only comes up if you include buildings without surveys in the search.

 

Thanks again

 

Every Blessing

 

Tony

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I gather that the organist of the town hall in Durris near Aberdeen is one Alexander Herzen. The "father of Russian Marxism" (as Lenin once described him) retired from political agitation in the late 19th century to take up a new career playing transcriptions and original organ repertoire upon the magnificent 63BC hydraulis in this charming corner of Scotland. Obviously Herzen is ageing somewhat today, but he can still rattle off a good Carillion Sortie or three. Also in his repertoire is my own tribute piece to him, written in a style that could only be described as Shostakovich/Vierne - Les Cloches de Durris. In it I try to evoke the impression of an advancing army upon a beautiful Russian city (and Herzen's home town, of course, though he has been in exile for about 160 years) whilst also using for my theme the sound of the bell (there is only one) at Durris Church. The piece combines the tolling bell of the church (E flat) in the right hand with marching music in the feet. The left hand maintains water pressure using a converted bicycle pump. The pedal organ was installed by Mander (a bourdon unit) in 1967. This is a sensitive addition to the original instrument, much like that on the historic instrument at Jesus College, Cambridge. Herzen reportedly felt the need for an en chamade regal at the same time, Mander installing a similar register at Jesus on the then-new organ there (situated beside the historic one with bourdon unit). To this day it remains the most entertaining stop on any organ anywhere. Were I ever organ scholar/director of music there I could in all honesty use it alone for any repertoire, any day, for the rest of my life. Herzen however was jealous to learn of the regal at Cambridge, as it is significantly more amusing than that fitted to the Durris hydraulis. He had wanted a regal for many years, even expressing a desire for such a stop in a letter to fellow members of the Russian political underground as early as 1858.

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I am so sorry to hear from Peter de Ville that the Colchester Town Hall or Moot Hall as it is locally known is now nearly defunct. I have many fond memories of attending the Saturday afternoon recitals in the 1960's given by the then Borough Organist, Leonard Simpson. Such a wonderful mix of music and performed with some panache as a Town Hall organist should . The N&B organ was, as I remember, pretty typical of the era with a strong emphasis on large opens and strong flutes but also some very pleasant string sounds and smooth reeds.

 

Having in the past worked for Bishop and Son for 15 years I must also add to the list the organ in Ipswich Town Hall; well Corn Exchange to be precise but it is part of the same building and owned by the Council. This is the organ taken out of Holy Trinity, Paddington, London after its closure in 1971. It was an 1876 Lewis rebuilt by N&B about 1912 I believe and then they did some additional work as HN&B in 1957. Bishops tok it out of the Paddington and completely rebuilt it for the Corn Exchange in 1975. I well remember working against the clock to get it out of the church as the lead from the roof had been stolen and water was getting in. As we worked one after another of the lights blew up as the water penetrated!

 

This one is still playable but has suffered. perversely from a leaking roof about 3 times! Bishops have managed to do a number of repairs and all was working well last Christmas as far as I know.

 

I now live in the US, cloes to Portland, Maine where the on of the very few city organs of the US is in the local City Hall. Many of you will know of the "Kotzschmar" a 1912, 5 manual Austin organ with 229 stops including a 32ft Diaphone which actually works. I have been working for David Wallace Organ Builder who carried out a major rebuild of this instrument in 2000. Edward Lamare

was a past organist here.

 

Hope all this is interesting to some of you and good luck with trying to shame some local councils into keeping and restoring their organs.

 

Good morning Mr Step,

 

How very interesting and fascinating I find your information; it's good to know that people from as far away as USA and Australia are reading this. I am particularly interested to read that you have worked on the Kotzchmar organ in your City Hall. I have a c.d. of this by the virtuosic Thomas Murray - An Evening with Edwin Lemare - but produced in 1991, and the organ sounded very fine then before its more recent restoration. You may be interested to know that the greatest concert organist, hopefully not arguably, of the 20th century - Lemare - has been re-incarnated this century in the form of Thomas Heywood (Melbourne Town Hall) who has been recitaling over here (UK) to ecstatic audiences. He is like a breath of fresh air to the organ world.

Yes - SOME of our local councils do keep their civic organs in good condition, others who possess organs hardly know what they are and care even less, and one or two would like to restore their instruments but haven't the wherewithall at the moment.

Regards M.S.

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