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What Would You Do?


Vox Humana
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In days of yore, one of the finer organs in Plymouth was a decent-sized, post-war, three-manual Nicholson in King Street (later Wesley) Methodist Church. It did make quite a fine sound. The church closed maybe five or six years ago and it was feared that the organ would be scrapped, but at the eleventh hour it was bought by Topsham parish church up on the Exe Estuary. Off it was shipped and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. An organ saved. Or was it?

 

To my horror, I have just learnt that it has never been installed. Apparently it is still lying in thousands of pieces in the Topsham's south transept. The organist there is reported as saying that the church (whose current organ is said to be quite nice) has lost interest in raising the money needed for its installation.

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In days of yore, one of the finer organs in Plymouth was a decent-sized, post-war, three-manual Nicholson in King Street (later Wesley) Methodist Church. It did make quite a fine sound. The church closed maybe five or six years ago and it was feared that the organ would be scrapped, but at the eleventh hour it was bought by Topsham parish church up on the Exe Estuary. Off it was shipped and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. An organ saved. Or was it?

 

To my horror, I have just learnt that it has never been installed. Apparently it is still lying in thousands of pieces in the Topsham's south transept. The organist there is reported as saying that the church (whose current organ is said to be quite nice) has lost interest in raising the money needed for its installation.

What a waste! From your comments and the details given in NPOR, I expect that it would have been quite fine instrument indeed.

 

Incidentally, NPOR describes this instrument as "IIIP49". Deducting the Choir and Swell tremulants (both of which are numbered) from the stops listed leaves only 48. However, there is clearly an error in the Great, where the Fifteenth is listed as "III 19.22.26", so that the details of the Fifteenth and Mixture have been somehow been amalgamated.

 

Rgds,

MJF

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In days of yore, one of the finer organs in Plymouth was a decent-sized, post-war, three-manual Nicholson in King Street (later Wesley) Methodist Church. It did make quite a fine sound. The church closed maybe five or six years ago and it was feared that the organ would be scrapped, but at the eleventh hour it was bought by Topsham parish church up on the Exe Estuary. Off it was shipped and everyone heaved a sigh of relief. An organ saved. Or was it?

 

To my horror, I have just learnt that it has never been installed. Apparently it is still lying in thousands of pieces in the Topsham's south transept. The organist there is reported as saying that the church (whose current organ is said to be quite nice) has lost interest in raising the money needed for its installation.

 

A slight interest to declare here as my mother in law lives in Topsham and I have known the organist at St Margaret's Church Topsham for many years though not been in contact for a few now. He runs a thriving music department and over the years has kept things at a consistently high standard. The Nicholson was to have been (is still to be?) rebuilt there (or so I was reliably told) by Michael Farley but lack of money to complete the project is possibly the issue at the moment. The present Hele organ there is in my opinion (having played it on a large number of occasions) rather horrid having more impact in the street outside than in the body of the church. I will see if I can get any more up to date information! As an aside - Roger Yates was also involved with this organ when first installed in Plymouth though I suspect not on the tonal side.

 

AJJ

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There is a not unrelated story at St John's Devizes.

 

The unreliable and generally nasty Hele/Noterman organ, which has been in a state of collapse for some years, was due to be replaced with a lovely 3m Hill which the church dutifully purchased. An incoming Diocesan Organ Advisor with a penchant for Heles decided this wouldn't do at all, and for some years the Hill has been dismantled and piled up under blankets at the rear of the church...

 

... which was subject to an arson attack a couple of weeks ago, destroying the Hill organ but leaving the Hele untouched, apart from a bit of smoke and soot.

 

So it seems the church will have to lumber on. While the fire damage is being repaired, the congregation has uprooted to St Mary's, a far finer building, with a splendid very early 2m Sweetland where Sweetland himself was organist. This church is probably going to be closed, but now has a temporary reprieve at least - its parish consists entirely of car parks and exhaust centres and it is far too old and wonderful to accomodate things like wheelchair access and toilets, so it has to go.

 

What I would do, then, is not raise money but either get other people to raise money, or assemble a band of volunteers with knowledge to come and put the new one up. I'd happily come down for a week - got family down there.

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What I would do, then, is not raise money but either get other people to raise money, or assemble a band of volunteers with knowledge to come and put the new one up. I'd happily come down for a week - got family down there.

 

This touches on something I mentioned a few months ago in relation to rejuvenating some of our long-dormant town hall instruments, or any others for which there is no financial contingency. There is much potential for such projects as the one you mention, provided there are willing and able volunteers. I think success would also rely on having supervision and final set-up and finishing from a reputable organ builder, but this would be money well spent and would represent a very considerable saving on the cost of engaging said organ builder to do all the labouring as well.

 

This is often the way that church bell projects are realised, with work in the tower being carried out by the local band with supervision from a bellhanger. Clearly though the consequences of getting bell-hanging wrong are somewhat more cataclysmic than getting your winding wrong.....!

 

 

Steve

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