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alan taylor

Alexandra Palace Organ

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A new web site has been set up at www.alexandrapalaceorgan.com

 

This is an unofficial web site. This new web site gives the whole sorry story. The important section is that called "Brief History 1990 to date"

Not pleasant reading I am afraid.

 

 

Alan Taylor

 

Moderator note: Mander Organs is not responsible for the content of external web sites

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This is truly a sad and sorry tale of spectacular incompetence and negligence. I hope the accounts of the fund stand up to scrutiny, quite apart from anything else.

 

But this almost sounds like the plot of a movie. If somebody could get a film studio interested in making the film, as part of the process they would need an organ to film and might pay for it to be rebuilt, with a competent committee, consultant and the whole thing put out to competitive and artistic tender.

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Yes, a truly sad and sorry tale it certainly seems to be. I assume that the authors of the website are quite sure of their facts, and satisfied that publishing their account of the Ally Pally's recent history is in the public interest. Indeed, I wonder sometimes if exposure of this type is the only real way in which to provoke a reaction. Who knows, maybe a current affairs show might pick up the story and run with it ...

 

Some years ago, considering it quite a worthwhile cause, I sent a small donation to the Appeal. Not unnaturally, I expected to be favoured with a receipt. I received nothing. (I wonder how many others, including perhaps contributors to these discussion topics, have been in the same position?) If even a part of the recent history is correct, then I would have to say that I am not surprised. And I must say that I now wonder for what purpose my donation ultimately was used ...

 

Regards

Malcolm F

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Yes, the webmasters do have all the paper work to back up the web sites claims.

 

It is a truly dreadful situation. As the web site says, it was put on line as the only means of getting the message across to the outside world. As the various authorities didn't want to know. It is hoped that the web site might spur those authorities into action.

 

The various authorities have been sent links to the web site. So they are all aware of it.

 

As the web site also says, copies of documents can be made available to interested viewers.

 

We will not enter into actual discussion on this list. Experience says that this can just become good guy verses bad guy. The documents and web site can speak for themselves.

 

The appeal is doing it’s best to close down the web site. Or, rather remove just about all of the history. Not by actually bringing direct pressure to bear on us. But, by threatening the ISP (web site host)

 

Alan

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My first instinctive thought, in responding to Alan's last post, was (despite his caveat) to comment on the respective legal responsibilities of Trustees and Appeal. Perhaps analysing matters in these terms is now too ingrained in me. But that is hardly appropriate, and I would agree with him that, one way or another, we risk descending into talk of "good guys" and "bad guys".

 

Suffice it to say that I have never heard the "Ally Pally" organ live, but only through old recordings recovered by way of the "Cedar process". I dare say that I have heard far more about it, than I ever heard it from it. My late father was just a boy of 7 or 8 when Cunningham gave the re-opening recital in the late 20s, but that, and recitals by the likes of Goss-Custard, Dupre and Thalben-Ball that followed in the 30s were something that he impressed on me when I was a boy, first infected with the "organ bug". And above all the instrument on which they played. It is surely one of the great heritages of the English organ world, and it deserves to be saved.

 

I would like to think that there will be a solution to the difficulties that the Ally Pally organ is facing. Somehow I feel that my life would be a little poorer if I never to have the chance to hear it live.

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I have followed the Ally Pally story down the years since EMI released their LP in 1970, with its stirring sleeve notes by the late Felix Aprahamian. I think Willis 4 stated when the first stage of the rebuild was done that the structure was intended to be temporary, and a 'taster' of what a fully restored instrument could be like, but can't remember where I read this.

 

An article on the work by the Willis firm on the organs of Wylde Green church in Birmingham appeared in 'Organ Building' (the IBO house publication) a couple of years ago, and mentions the removal of the two choir stops from AP for use in that instrument. The article said that the two stops belonged to the instrument which was installed at Wylde Green. See http://myweb.tiscali.co.uk/borgass/organs/002.htm for details of this one.

 

Presumably the parts of the instrument not yet erected are still owned by the Willis firm following their purchase by Willis 4 in 1969. Does this complicate the process of putting out future work to tender?

 

I'm a bit surprised that there is nothing about the AP organ on the Willis website, as it seems to be one their prestige contracts.

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Curiouser and curiouser!

 

First, the Trustees own the organ, or at least so much of it as has been installed. [but I gather they don't own the Alexandra Palace itself - is this correct? And isn't the future of the building still in some doubt?]

 

Then the balance of the pipework is owned by Henry Willis & Sons, unless of course it belongs to one or more other instruments such as Wylde Green. [Does bam's statement above mean that the two Choir Organ stops in question never in fact belonged to so much of the instrument as had vested in the Trustees, but were merely on loan from Wylde Green or Willis?]

 

Finally, the Appeal is responsible for funding the restoration of the organ, which I thus take to include, as a first step, the purchase of pipework from Willis on a piecemeal basis as needed for whatever part of the restoration is proceeding - when, that is, restoration work is in fact proceeding. [but I assume that the pipework wouldn't physically leave Willis until such time as it is ready for installation, when I would gather it vests in the Trustees. Or does it?]

 

Well, if the duke found that Mozart's music had too many notes, I, for one, find this whole story just as much of a muddle ...

 

Yours in dazed confusion,

Malcolm F

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I was searching the web for any additional info and found this.....

 

http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk/index.php

 

There are clearly two sides to the story! The new 'unofficial' website uses the format of the old 'official' website. The new 'official' website appears to be brand new.

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Don't forget that the web masters of the unofficial web site are happy to supply copies of documents to interested parties. So, check out the official web site, then the unofficial web site. Then, request away.

 

If you look at the official site, it claims that the two stops in question, from the choir organ, were only on loan. If you look on the unofficial site, you will see a letters to the Foundation of Sports and Arts, and the Charity Commissioners which gives a quite different story. I could go on and on with such comparisons.

 

One proviso, real names and email address needed first before documents released.

 

Alan Taylor

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Perhaps I can help to clear up some of the confusion on this matter, as I am a current Trustee of the charity in question.

 

Firstly, Alan Taylor has no authority to speak on behalf of the Ally Pally Organ or its Appeal. When considering whether his views and opinions may be partisan, one should be aware that he has publicly vowed to destroy the Alexandra Palace Organ Appeal, and this clearly informs his selective quotation of the 'facts', which he does so out of context and without permission of the authors or owners. One should also be aware that Mr. Taylor and his accomplices have failed to return Appeal property - not least its website, which was eventually reclaimed by us. This explains why the old official website became the new 'unofficial' one.

 

Secondly, this truly is a sad and sorry tale of spectacular incompetence, but maybe not quite in the manner you might expect. Allow me merely to say that the The Appeal has learned greatly from its mistakes in the past, particularly with regard to appointing members. The present Committee is focussed on finishing this great project, and not on the petty infighting which may have dogged it previously.

 

Thirdly, The Appeal enjoys an excellent relationship with and is in regular communication with The Charity Commission. Accounts are prepared and submitted each year and have always held up to scrutiny. The Appeal is very much aware of the great responsibility placed on it of ensuring that the money of donors is used responsibly and in keeping with charity aims. This requires that Committee members uphold their responsibilities also. If they do not, the constitution of the charity requires that, in order to be removed, [four words removed by moderator], a UNANIMOUS vote of no confidence must be passed.

 

Fourthly, I am greatly saddened to read that Malcolm Farr's donation was not acknowledged, which I am confident is due to a simple clerical error. I apologise sincerely on behalf of The Appeal. If Malcolm would be so kind as to contact me privately specifying the details of his donation I shall do my best to determine what it was spent on and obtain a formal acknowledgement.

 

Fifthly, I'll speculate that the various authorities do not 'want to know' about Mr Taylor's claims for one simple reason. They have seen them for what they are - a spurious and cynical attempt to discredit the name of a respectable charity.

 

Sixthly, you are most welcome to hear the organ live at any one of the regular concerts we hold - details on http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk/concerts.php . MP3 recordings from the 1930's and 2004 are also available on this, the official website.

 

Seventhly, it is public knowledge that the two Wylde Green stops were loaned to the Alexandra Palace by the Organbuilder.

 

Eighthly, parts of the instrument are indeed 'temporary', although they have lasted remarkably well given this. They have unfortunately given spurious fodder to the detractors, who have criticised them along the lines of not looking permanent enough. You can read more about Henry 4's views on the temporary components - a necessary part of a piecemeal restoration - on http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk/organ1993.php .

 

Ninthly, there is confusion over two sets of Trustees; those of the Palace, and those of the Organ Appeal. The Organ Appeal owns all unrestored pipework. Once installed, ownership passes to The Palace. The two choir stops in question have only ever been owned by Henry Willis & Sons.

 

Tenthly, there are indeed 'two sides to every story', and when considering the 'two sides', one has to bear in mind the motivations of each side. We know about Mr. Taylors', ours is quite simply to complete the restoration of this glorious instrument, and to keep it in the public eye until and after that occurs. Thanks to Mr. Taylor, we have had an enormous amount of unintentional help with the latter objective.

 

Stephen Walmsley

Alexandra Palace Organ Appeal

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Moderator notice

 

John Mander has been working overseas, without proper web access, for about two weeks. He is back in the UK this week, and this topic has been drawn to his attention.

 

On-line discussion boards cannot be used to defame others. The message to which this is a comment is about to be removed, and another message will probably be edited.

 

Rachel

Technical Contact, Mander Organs

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It has been brought to my attention that in my earlier posting, of 4th March 2005, one of the phrases is rather open to interpretation; namely, "his accomplices", when I referred to Appeal property not being returned. Accordingly, I should like to clarify this: to avoid misunderstanding that phrase should have read "the former webmaster of The Appeal". I apologise to Mr. Taylor and his friends for the potential misunderstanding my unclear statement may have caused.

 

Stephen Walmsley

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May I just say one thing on this topic. I would just like to see this once glorious instrument restored to its former glory. Marcel Dupre once said that the Ally Pally Organ was the finest Concert Organ in Europe. He referred in particular to the magnificient Swell mixtures, amongst others. Another famous Organist GTB also spoke in glowing terms with regard to this instrument. Well, I'm not old enough to say that I've heard it live, but the recordings speak for themselves.

 

I only wish that everyone may work together to restore this instrument to its former glory, and provide a fantastic venue for Concert organ playing on a grand scale in North London.

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May I just say one thing on this topic. I would just like to see this once glorious instrument restored to its former glory.

...

I only wish that everyone may work together to restore this instrument to its former glory,

...

 

Mark,

 

All of the current Trustees of The Appeal share your wish, and speaking as someone who has, like others this year, given up hundreds of hours of time, free of charge, I can state that we do work together practically every day, pouring lots of energy into making it happen.

 

At the tender age of 12 I encountered the LP reissue of the EMI recordings in a local library. There were many things about that LP which stirred my young imagination; Felix Aprahamian's inspiring sleeve notes (now available to read online at http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk/recordings.php ), the spectacular photograph on the front - which makes the towering case seem even more so - the exciting playing and most of all those astonishing sounds in the equally astonishing resonance of the hall. Even then I knew that here was something quite wonderful and worth fighting to save.

 

Many years later, with a partially-successful restoration in a much-changed hall, and having played and photographed it ( http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk/organpresent.php ) as recently as a fortnight ago, I still believe that the Alexandra Palace Organ has the potential to be as wonderful again. I am far from alone in this view. The present incarnation has received its fair share of criticism but to the "glass is half-full" people it offers a tantalising glimpse of what once was, and what could be. The legend lives on, the challenge is now to help it regain its full stature. It will be an uphill struggle for everyone involved, as it always has been, but we look forward to what one day might grace the gallery in the Great Hall, and as far as I am concerned, and however it happens, nothing less will do than the glories of the instrument which speaks to us from long ago via those recordings**, and upon which Dupre, Cunningham, Marchal, Thalben-Ball and others lavished such praise.

 

Stephen Walmsley

 

**possibly modulo standard pitch, of course

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That is true that the recordings show a fabulous organ....

 

The case was also incredible, and I do hope it will be recreated withits 32 ft front.

 

Does anybody knows how was the original action ? Tubular penumatic ? How were the windchests built ? Slider ones ?

 

Thnking you in advance,

 

PF Baron

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Perhaps others may comment on the action, but the 32' front always appeared unique to me - enormous in its scale and impact. Any future creation must replicate this, otherwise it will disappoint.

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The distinctive 32' front was indeed one of the many things which made the instrument remarkable. Its eventual recreation and reinstatement has been on the agenda from day one; in fact never even questioned to my knowledge. So to Mark's statement that "Any future creation must replicate this, otherwise it will disappoint.", I say "Amen!", along with the rest of the 1929 organ!

 

My understanding of why It hasn't been done so far is that (as one might expect) the case and display pipes will be expensive to recreate. Both were tragically vapourised in the 1980 fire. I'm reliably informed that the original 32' pipes were slotted and, for visual effect, rather longer than the 40' or so one might expect. Comparatively, for the cost of this one rank, one could restore rather more ranks on the Swell and Great - for which the original pipework exists in varying states of repair, and whose musical contribution will arguably be greater.

 

Regarding the 1873/75 action, there are some prescient remarks taken from a 1930 edition of The Rotunda available on http://www.allypallyorgan.org.uk/organ.php , but I shall seek further and more detailed information.

 

Stephen

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Does anybody knows how was the original action ? Tubular penumatic ?

According to Elvin, who wrote an "Organ Notes" article in The Choir, for which I don't have a date, "The action was Barker Lever, with a clever system of pneumatic to the drawstops and pistons...".

 

In the Musical Standard, 28 October 1899, an article in the "Organs of Great Britain" series states "The pneumatic lever for the manual key action is of the most approved design, and the Pedal Organ has Willis's Patent Tubular action. The drawstop and piston action is also pneumatic with "vacuum exhaust" on a system patented by the builder."

 

In The Rotunda, March 1930, Willis III wote "Pedal Action: A highly ingenious tubular pneumatic system was introduced of a then novel type. The player operated a pneumatic primary on a chest, which, by means of governing sliders, played the various sections of the Pedal... In the 1875 instrument every manual department was played through the intermediary of a Barket[sic]-Willis pneumatic lever. I could have readily converted the old pneumatic lever by an immediate electrical application, but as this would have left the tracker connections of great length and considerable weight to the pull-downs of the soundboards, I preferred to place a new electro-pneumatic converter at the soundboards themselves."

 

Stephen

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It has been brought to our attention that we, the web masters of http://www.alexandrapalaceorgan.com are accused, although no accusations have been made to us directly, of seeking to undermine the firm of Henry Willis and Sons.

 

We have been accused, although again, not to us directly, of writing anonymous letters to both Henry Willis and Sons and to their customers. We refute these accusations completely and utterly. Why anyone would think we would send anonymous letters to Henry Willis and Sons is beyond our comprehension. All we have to say is contained on the web site. Not only have we been accused of sending such letters, we are accused of cutting letters out of newspapers to do this pointless act. As for their customers, we have no knowledge of what work they are engaged on. And indeed, have no wish to know. Our sole interest in Henry Willis and Sons is their involvement with the organ of the Alexandra Palace.

 

A webmaster was invited to a Board meeting of the Alexandra Palace on the 15th March. The trustees of the Alexandra Palace, all of whom are councilors of the London Borough of Haringey, are seeking to divest themselves of the Palace. The Palace makes very large financial losses every year. The Trustees are working with a Consortium which has an interest in taking over the Palace. The Trustee, who invited the Web Master, believes that the organ will not be wanted by the Consortium. More meetings with the Web Master are planned. Updates of which will be posted on the web site.

 

It should be remembered that the hall is very different to the pre fire hall. The glass in the roof was more than doubled on rebuilding. The temperature soars up and down very quickly. The lack of humidity does little for the state of the organ. If the organ was to be properly reconstructed, it would mean that just about all of the soundboards et al, would have to be remade as they were in the RAH organ.

 

The appeal is now claming that it only now needs £600.00 to complete the job. This would include a new case and all the 16ft ranks. Not to mention the 32ft case pipes. Only 8 years ago it was saying that the job would cost over a million. The true cost is more likely to be over the 2 million mark. This in a hall which is now unsuitable for the organ. With an average audience of 30 people.

 

Let me say again, that the web site we run, http://www.alexandrapalaceorgan.com contains only facts backed up by documents. All of these documents, including the Bell reports, are available for your inspection.

 

 

Alan Taylor

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As an ex member of the Alexandra Palace organ Appeal, I held the offices in turn of Friends Secretary, Treasurer and Concert Organiser, my attention has been drawn to the exchange of messages regarding the above.

 

I have read the reply to Alan Taylor’s posting, and I would query a few points made by Mr Walsmsley.

 

As an ex-treasurer, I was instrumental in arranging the purchase of the unfitted pipes from Henry Willis and Sons for a sum of £7,050. It was agreed to donate these pipes to the Alexandra Palace Trustees, but as many Committee meetings were not minuted, I do not hold documentary evidence.

 

It was aslo agreed that the said pipes were to be delivered to the Palace. But this never happerned. The appeal was then charged to transport the pipes from Petersfield to Liverpool.

 

As Willis are not the owners, they cannot of course insure these pipes.

 

Documentation regarding the proposed move of pipes to the Palace will be supplied to the unofficial web site.

 

Mr Walsmsley states that accounts are submitted to the Charity Commissioners annually. I have spoken to the CC and they are adamant that they only hold accounts for the years 1998 and 2002.

 

Alan Taylor has never suggested that he is speaking on behalf of the Appeal. In fact none of the ex-members wish to be associated with that organisation in any way,

 

As Alan Taylor and most of us have worked tirelessly for the Appeal and contributed financially substantially, I see no reason why we cannot express an opinion on the future of the Willis organ.

 

Alan Taylor does not wish to destroy the Willis organ restoration project, but he is publicising the views of many supporters who are demanding a new regime to complete the restoration. And this with a tendering process in force, rather than favouring one organ builder.

 

Can I comment on the missing pipes which have probably caused more controversy than any other matter, bearing in mind that the Appeal Committee was not aware of the removal. There is documentary evidence that the Choir organ was COMPLETED as confirmed in letters to the Charity Commission and the Foundation for sports and arts. There was no no mention in these letters that two of the ranks were on loan.

 

It is a gross insult to those donors over the years who now find that their money is to be used to fund the replacement of those ranks yet again.

 

Colin Richell

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Guest Roffensis

I have to say how very depressing it is to read of all the general mudslinging going on within this site, which really should not be used as a sounding board for such. What needs clarifying is this- the motives behind anyones comments should always be with the wellbeing and future of Alexandra Palace Organ and its ongoing restoration the priority. There are enough anti organ brigades around the world ready to ditch instruments and generally run down hard work of appeals, without anyone else adding to it who really should know better. The new appeal site is to be commended, it has a great many photographs and such on it, and is a mine of information. It also promotes the restoration in no uncertain terms. My own experiences of the whole sorry tale go back almost four decades, and it is truly shameful, a national travesty, that this organ begs for funding to be finally completely restored to its former glory, something that IS achiveable, IS worth doing, and WILL result in beyond any doubt the very finest Willis Organ in existence. Father Willis went to town on this one. That is no exaggeration. Its reputation went before it then, and it is easy to recognise it now as that same organ that earned such a reputation as it did. The fact we are still talking about it now bears this out. It is a Organ that will never die, it is an Enigma, a true one off masterpiece, and we must never lose sight of this. Organ building has progressed so much ,and we can copy lost pipes so accurately that this organ has a very real place in the 21st century. It is a big part of our national heritage. To talk of bodies not wanting it is to demean the original trustees purpose and promises and asurances, that it would ever be a poeples palace, and that includes the organ. It isn't going anywhere. It's plain not legal. So forget that! As to the roof, yes more glass, but Crystal Cathedral copes, and there are such things as humidifiers. So why try to decry a good attempt to finish it? to what aim? The only thing that has surely to be done is the work put out to tender, this has to happen. It's fair. And there must be a totally independant consultant. It is how things are done, and if done, funding will happen, as at the RAH. The organ is anything but a lost cause. I find it so sad that such a grossly inferior instrument as the RAH should receive so much attention, when we have at Alexandra Palace the best, let's be honest. It has no rival, and it must be restored. No single builder has any right to it, and it is time to try the other way, tender and consultant, and agree, and move on. Decades are passing still, and it needs finishing now. Enough is enough.

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The Trustees of the Alexandra Palace have made the decision to get rid of the organ.

 

The Palace is to be handed over to a consortium. The Palace runs at an annual loss of 2 million pounds a year.

 

The consortium has no use for the organ. The organ is to be offered to the APOA in the first instance.

 

The Lib Dem Haringey councillors are fighting to have the decision reversed.

 

Alan Taylor

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Guest Barry Oakley

This is far from good news. But what about all the money that might be available if we fail in our bid to attract the 2012? Olympic Games. Oh, and I assume you do not mean APOA but APOBA - Associated Pipe Organ Builders of America?

 

Just a thought.

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It may be interesting to note the french say the same -let's give up on the OGs in order to invest a bit more in heritage preservation-.

But of course organists and athlets live in different worlds!

 

Best wishes,

Pierre Lauwers.

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