In recent weeks I’ve been working on surveying and reporting on numerous organs, as usual. What is less usual, though, is that three of them are what one might call ‘modern’ organs, in other words, instruments built over the past few decades, two with tracker action, inbuilt wind regulators, comprehensive piston systems and an eclectic tonal scheme based on complete flue and reed choruses plus historically informed ‘colour’ stops. All are still in fine working order, but are due for cleaning and other work. One finds itself in a different position from the others, as the church in which it sits is to be replaced by a smaller building.
The first I visited was Lancing College, and an organ whose opening recital I remember attending in 1986. The architecture of the chapel, the Stephen Dykes-Bower rose window and the David Graebe organ case never fail to inspire, even though the dry acoustic always comes as a disappointing shock. The bottom octave of the 32ft Double Open Diapason uses diaphonic pipes (more often found in cinema organs and in the larger instruments of John Compton). I thought a photograph of one of the beaters might be of interest.
I was hugely impressed when playing and surveying the splendid 1973 Hradetzky organ in the Royal Northern College of Music – arguably the finest large neo-classical instrument in any UK educational institution. Although the RNCM no longer has an organ department, it is very proud of its Concert Hall organ and is taking my advice over its restoration and the improvement of safe access for tuning and maintenance.
Notice that as the manual keyboards are closely spaced, there is insufficient room for engraved pistons – quite a challenge to improve.
This incredibly effective ‘multum in parvo’ 1970 Hill, Norman & Beard organ in Carrs Lane Church, Birmingham has pleased all who hear or play it for over fifty years. One of John Norman’s cleverest and most successful small neo-classical designs, using direct-electric soundboards and with much of the pipework drawn from the previous building’s high-romantic Norman & Beard, this organ really punches above its weight. The 1969 building is going to be replaced with a somewhat smaller one, so the challenge is to come up with a way to integrate the 1970 organ in the new building. I’m open to suggestions!