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The 2006 Kuhn builder in Switzerland belongs to the top in Europe.

They can build new Kegelladen, and even free reeds again!

 

Pierre

 

'Sounds as if we are in for a treat then! Here's another one - from a good Danish builder this time - again nothing looks too radical and if his Danish work is anything to go by again we are in for something interesting! (Nice 'villagey' case too).

 

http://www.trinhall.cam.ac.uk/about/chapel....asp?ItemID=360

 

AJJ

 

PS I wonder if any Brit. firms tendered for either of these?

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'Spotted this - it looks quite fun and not too neo anything. The case is a bit IKEA though - isn't the current one rather odd too? Geigens, Lieblichs and even Dolces seem to be back in this season also!

 

http://chapel.jesus.cam.ac.uk/choirs/organ/neworgan.html

 

AJJ

 

This appears (at least on paper) to be a sensible specification. The only thing on which I would venture criticism is the apparenlty redundant Dolce on the Swell; with a Salicional already on the same department, my own preference would be to have had a quiet fractional-length reed, for example a Double Clarinet 16p. Otherwise, I could live quite happily with this instrument.

 

Of course, it could be seen as the height of folly to find fault with an instrument before it is first heard. Nevertheless all organs usually begin life as a paper specification and this element seems to me to be the only serious omission in the stop-list - particularly as there is a Swell Sub Octave to GO. If one were to play the Widor Toccata, for example, and move to the Swell clavier for the quieter central section, I am fairly certain that, however the instrument is voiced, there would be a great reduction in the texture with regard to gravitas, since there is apparently no facility to couple the Swell on itself at sub-unison pitch. A Double Clarinet would, I feel certain, be considerably more useful than the Dolce, which is likely to be similar in timbre and power to the Salicional - unless of course, Orgelbau Kuhn have a different idea of how a Dolce and a Salicional should sound....

 

At least they have included an Oboe at unison pitch, instead of the ubiquitous Contra Oboe at 16p - generally too slender to be of any real use in supplying wieght and true gravitas and usually far more useful at 8p pitch both in accompaniment and in solo playing.

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Guest delvin146
'Sounds as if we are in for a treat then! Here's another one -  from a good Danish builder this time - again nothing looks too radical and if his Danish work is anything to go by again we are in for something interesting! (Nice 'villagey' case too).

 

http://www.trinhall.cam.ac.uk/about/chapel....asp?ItemID=360

 

AJJ

 

PS I wonder if any Brit. firms tendered for either of these?

 

O for God's sake!! Bloody foreign builders again. Surely the English know how to make Salicionals and Diapasons better than they do? I think it's pretty insulting to our own English tradition of organ building to have builders coming in from abroad. Think Bath Abbey and what a box of old farts that became.

 

If we're not happy using our own builders to build our own organs here, surely this is something we should be more than a little concerned about. Perhaps we should impose stronger imigration laws.

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O for God's sake!! Bloody foreign builders again. Surely the English know how to make Salicionals and Diapasons better than they do? I think it's pretty insulting to our own English tradition of organ building to have builders coming in from abroad. Think Bath Abbey and what a box of old farts that became.

 

If we're not happy using our own builders to build our own organs here, surely this is something we should be more than a little concerned about. Perhaps we should impose stronger imigration laws.

I would echo delvin146's sentiments. The Kuhn specification for Jesus College looks on paper like it will be a typically English instrument, i.e. the English stop names. There is a saying: "Why keep a dog and bark yourself" and one could add a new one along the lines of: "Why specify an English organ and get the Germans/Swiss/Danish (delete as appropriate) to build it?" I'm sure the Swiss organ builders Kuhn make very fine instruments - I mean, they even have a philosophy but one does wonder whether an English organ-builder of the quality of Tickell, Mander or Harrisons were considered and if Kuhn were able to undercut them.

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O for God's sake!! Bloody foreign builders again.

 

This kind of talk is just silly. Don't forget a lot of English firms export like mad, and one or two seem to exist solely off the back of exports. The Global Economy is A Good Thing for this simple reason - somewhere in the world, there will be a customer who wants what we've got. There are two benefits:

 

1) Financial stability, leading to long-term investment in skills and tooling, whatever the momentary condition of our own economy.

 

2) Integrity and stability of craftsmanship - the choice can be made to run with a definite house style in terms of action, tonal features etc on the basis there will be a customer somewhere who wants it. No more will builders find themselves, in times of financial pressure, doing work they really don't want to put a name to, simply to keep the firm afloat.

 

Without these two things, we are back to the 1970's - tonal ideals changing with the wind, craftsmanship and quality out of the window in order to be the cheapest quote on every job. People must choose a builder on the basis of that builder offering something they want to have, not because they're the cheapest price. Hence builders like Aubertin, Drake, our host and many others being able to have such a strong identity and thrive.

 

By all means build a wall round your house and put out as many flags as you like! I fear you'll be left standing.

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I would echo delvin146's sentiments. The Kuhn specification for Jesus College looks on paper like it will be a typically English instrument, i.e. the English stop names. There is a saying: "Why keep a dog and bark yourself" and one could add a new one along the lines of: "Why specify an English organ and get the Germans/Swiss/Danish (delete as appropriate) to build it?" I'm sure the Swiss organ builders Kuhn make very fine instruments - I mean, they even have a philosophy but one does wonder whether an English organ-builder of the quality of Tickell, Mander or Harrisons were considered and if Kuhn were able to undercut them.

 

It's not just that, one has to be very careful not to offend in this day and age. One could be had up by the race-relations board by quite innocently talking about one's "Kuhn" within the wrong ear-shot.

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I wonder how many UK firms would give their apprentices, trainee pipemakers and tuning reps such regonition on their website.  What stands out to me is the pride they have in their product.

 

True, but I for one can't help thinking they look slightly maffia

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This kind of talk is just silly.  Don't forget a lot of English firms export like mad, and one or two seem to exist solely off the back of exports. 

With all due respect, David has made my point for me.

 

English firms exist almost solely off the back of exports because they can't get a UK job for love nor money because they're all going to the Kuhns, Klais, Frobenius, Marcussens, Letourneaus, Aubertins and Golls of this world. A measure of how bad things have got here is when we all get so excited about Manders or Harrisons actually building a brand new organ in this country for St Peter's Church, St Albans and Glenalmond College. These are rare events and yet by no stretch of the imagination can they be classed as significant instruments, unlike the two to be built for Worcester by Tickell and Nicholsons, which will be.

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I would echo delvin146's sentiments. The Kuhn specification for Jesus College looks on paper like it will be a typically English instrument, i.e. the English stop names. There is a saying: "Why keep a dog and bark yourself" and one could add a new one along the lines of: "Why specify an English organ and get the Germans/Swiss/Danish (delete as appropriate) to build it?" I'm sure the Swiss organ builders Kuhn make very fine instruments - I mean, they even have a philosophy but one does wonder whether an English organ-builder of the quality of Tickell, Mander or Harrisons were considered and if Kuhn were able to undercut them.

 

 

I agree. It baffles me why Oxbridge colleges engage an overseas builder and then ask him to build an organ in what, for him, is an alien style, even to the extent of presenting him with an English stop-list. In the case of Trinity Hall I am sure the answer lies with the celebrated English concert organist and teacher who acted as consultant.

 

I saw the TH organ under construction in the builder's workshop last April. It looked very nice, yet I wondered about such things as the off-note electric chests which I doubt Carsten Lund would have included on the sort of organs he usually builds, as evidenced by his magnificent recreation of a large 3m Arp Schnitger organ in the Garrison Church in Copenhagen - and on which, incidentally, the same consultant is recording the complete works of JSB.

 

The Oxbridge colleges are seats of learning and academic enquiry: it seems to me entirely proper that the chapel organs should be representative of a wide variety of organbuilding styles and philosophies, both indigenous and foreign. There is no reason why colleges should not look to overseas builders, but, if they do, they should respect their artistic integrity and allow them to build in an honest and characteristic style. The Queen's College took the first brave step with Frobenius back in 1965 - others (eg. Christ Church & Pembroke at Oxford, Clare & Girton at Cambridge) have followed with varying degrees of artistic success. The latest promising development is St John's, Oxford, where the organ committee has shown its faith in Bernard Aubertin to build what looks like being a truly exciting and ground-breaking organ, quite different from anything else in the University.

 

JS

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The point about stylistic integrity of the continental builders is a good one which hadn't occurred to me.

 

The point I think Jeremy is missing is this - if we stop importing organs, we in all likelihood stop exporting them. That means that 3/4 of the globe is closed to us. Not only that, trade relations (for tuning etc) between UK and overseas companies is not shared, and neither are experiences, practices, product development and so on and so forth.

 

If our organbuilders are to spend a sensible amount on training and tooling to make the best possible product, then we just can't rely on internal orders. There isn't enough revenue in this small island alone. We are a tiny, tiny country.

 

And, next time our economy hits the poop (which it will, no matter who's in charge), guess what? There's nothing to fall back on. Half the firms disappear, and the strongest survive by suspending whatever principles they have in order to survive. Before you know it we'll be back to the days of electrification and Positiving choir organs and getting away with it.

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Guest delvin146

I agree. It baffles me why Oxbridge colleges engage an overseas builder and then ask him to build an organ in what, for him, is an alien style, even to the extent of presenting him with an English stop-list.

 

Strange handshakes and rolled-up trouser legs?

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I agree. It baffles me why Oxbridge colleges engage an overseas builder and then ask him to build an organ in what, for him, is an alien style, even to the extent of presenting him with an English stop-list.

 

Strange handshakes and rolled-up trouser legs?

 

Perhaps they're going through the same process our own builders went through (and some still do), i.e. many years of making Spitzflotes and Prinzipals and Blockflojtdes and Scharffzimbels etc etc etc - abandoning our own, somewhat idiosyncratic notions of the time in favour of an international alternative. We should be flattered and grateful that other nations recognise the validity and importance of English organbuilding heritage - sometimes even more than we do?

 

If we want to get THAT parochial, perhaps we should take objection to the fact that William Drake trained in Germany and holds German qualifications, and all his staff are from well outside the UK... yet I would not expect to hear a single voice stating that his organs are anything other than 100% English. Does the fact that "these bloody foreigners" made and assembled the bits on Devonshire turf qualify them as English organs?

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Perhaps they're going through the same process our own builders went through (and some still do), i.e. many years of making Spitzflotes and Prinzipals and Blockflojtdes and Scharffzimbels etc etc etc - abandoning our own, somewhat idiosyncratic notions of the time in favour of an international alternative.  We should be flattered and grateful that other nations recognise the validity and importance of English organbuilding heritage - sometimes even more than we do?

 

If we want to get THAT parochial, perhaps we should take objection to the fact that William Drake trained in Germany and holds German qualifications, and all his staff are from well outside the UK... yet I would not expect to hear a single voice stating that his organs are anything other than 100% English.  Does the fact that "these bloody foreigners" made and assembled the bits on Devonshire turf qualify them as English organs?

As far as I know the contract at Jesus Cambridge was awarded on the basis of solutions proposed to very particular engineering problems associated with the size and shape of the organ gallery - it might be going a bit far to extrapolate a general priniciple from this situation, I think.
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As far as I know the contract at Jesus Cambridge was awarded on the basis of solutions proposed to very particular engineering problems associated with the size and shape of the organ gallery - it might be going a bit far to extrapolate a general priniciple from this situation, I think.

 

Not sure I was trying to! I was not making any comment about Jesus Coll. I just find it very surprising that there are still those who would have us close our borders and do business only within our islands, despite the massive disadvantages to all nations but particularly us, as one of the smallest with an industrial economy entirely dependent on European firms.

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Not sure I was trying to!  I was not making any comment about Jesus Coll.  I just find it very surprising that there are still those who would have us close our borders and do business only within our islands, despite the massive disadvantages to all nations but particularly us, as one of the smallest with an industrial economy entirely dependent on European firms.

couldn't agree more David - I think I was directing my comment more at the idea that a sort of 'anyone as long they're foreign' mindset lay behind the decision to award the contract outside the UK.
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couldn't agree more David - I think I was directing my comment more at the idea that a sort of 'anyone as long they're foreign' mindset lay behind the decision to award the contract outside the UK.

 

ahhahhh... would you like your worms heated, or straight from the can?

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I just find it very surprising that there are still those who would have us close our borders and do business only within our islands, despite the massive disadvantages to all nations but particularly us, as one of the smallest with an industrial economy entirely dependent on European firms.

I would never advocate closing our borders to external influences - without the exchange of ideas the industry would stagnate. All I am calling for is a level playing field. When we in the UK are more familiar with the current output of a Marcussen (Tonbridge, Bridgewater Hall), Klais (Symphony Hall, St Lawrence Jewry, Bath Abbey) or a Letourneau (Tower of London, Selwyn College) than a Mander (St Peter's, St Albans and ???) or a Harrisons (St George's, Douglas, IOM and ???), then only someone with their head in the sand could believe that the situation in the UK today is a healthy one. Is a level playing field such a lot to ask for?

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I would never advocate closing our borders to external influences - without the exchange of ideas the industry would stagnate. All I am calling for is a level playing field. When we in the UK are more familiar with the current output of a Marcussen (Tonbridge, Bridgewater Hall), Klais (Symphony Hall, St Lawrence Jewry, Bath Abbey) or a Letourneau (Tower of London, Selwyn College) than a Mander (St Peter's, St Albans and ???) or a Harrisons (St George's, Douglas, IOM and ???), then only someone with their head in the sand could believe that the situation in the UK today is a healthy one. Is a level playing field such a lot to ask for?

 

I wonder if this isn't merely a question of perception. I have played countless new instruments by British builders. I can play several new instruments by UK firms (less than 15 years old) without going more than 40 miles from my door. I can't see a single import in the same radius - well, not that I can think of, anyway. I can see countless more very serious rebuilds involving application of real and hard-won skill and knowledge, not just an air compressor and tin of polish. I played a brand new Harrison in a local parish church only last week which was absolutely phenomenal in terms of construction quality and attention to detail - mitred seams on wind trunks, oak everywhere. I have a poster in my vestry showing new or reconstructed Walker instruments from the last 15 years or so - lots of them, and mostly big ones. There are new Drakes, Tickells, Nicholsons, Collins, Kenneth Jones, Bowers et al beyond counting to the point where most of these firms are booked up for years ahead and now turning work away. Willis are flourishing and making new instruments again. It does appear that larger and especially concert hall instruments are going elsewhere, but maybe that's because our own builders deliberately concentrate on smaller, more musical instruments and quality rebuilds, which can take up more time and effort than an entirely new instrument, and probably also require much more skill and knowledge than can be learnt on a production line. Instances where smaller instruments are going elsewhere are more unusual now than they were 10 years ago and, as sjf says, we can believe they are because the proposal happened to be the best one on the table.

 

This is as it should be; our firms naturally have to set their focus on where most of the work is. A few can cherry pick the bits they want to do and be highly specialised. Our economy doesn't work in a way where we can set up organ factories with dozens of staff churning out new 4 manual jobs to order. If other people can - let them, because we'll either go bust trying or will end up less able to do the work we need to be really good at. In an industry like this you just can't respond to huge changes in size and output quickly enough; skills are learnt, not bought, and happily they seem also to be valued. We have learnt to downsize on a grand scale and this is why we are now widely regarded as one of the most efficient and stable economies in the world. (Elsewhere, certainly; perhaps not by our own dear newspapers. Reminds me of some New Labour protest songs heard on R4 a couple of weeks ago: Whadda we want? Sustainable growth! When do we want it? When fiscally prudent! - and my favourite - whadda we want? progressive reform! when do we wannit? in due course!)

 

Furthermore, most of the instruments you mention are over 10 years old and I don't think there's any doubt that in the late 80's/early 90's things were probably skewed, owing in part to the perception from the preceding years that our builders couldn't create a reliable quality product, and also due to the emergence of celebrity consultants keen to be seen on the cutting edge of hip. The quality and design question marks hanging over some of these instruments - and the ensuing publicity - has been enough to give the perception we're being invaded. In truth, our own concert hall instruments haven't been much more successful (St David's Hall for example). Right now, it seems to me that the steady march of often very large Walker and Mander instruments (among others) across the globe - and the near universal acclaim with which they are being received - is enough for other nations to start questioning how level their own playing fields are (how many organs have we got from the USA??? Hexham, and...?), and if that happened any time soon it would be VERY serious indeed for the future of our firms.

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