Paul Hale as organ consultant

Matthew O’Donovan, Director of Music, St Mary’s Maidenhead (June 2021)

Having known Paul Hale for many years since my time as his organ scholar at Southwell Minster, I knew he would be a good person to advise us on the best way forward as the church approached a major building project which would necessitate at the very least the removal of our ailing old organ. Paul’s contribution throughout the project was invaluable from the beginning, and always sensitive to our particular needs. It began with a detailed assessment of our existing instrument and discussions about possible ways forward: should we go electronic, or rebuild, or replace our old instrument? Who should we invite to tender, and what were the relative merits of one proposal over another?

Paul drew our attention to the work of Jonathan Wallace and his team from Henry Groves, who proved to be just the right people for the job; Paul then worked closely with them throughout the design, construction and installation of the instrument, from the first stages of planning the scheme to the final voicing. We also greatly valued his expertise in regular liaison with our architect and building design team in order to ensure that decisions were avoided which might have been detrimental to the effectiveness of the instrument.

The result – representing exceptional value for our budget – is a fine, cohesive instrument which serves our needs as a church very well indeed, and which is a joy to play. On the basis of our experience, I can warmly recommend Paul’s services as an expert independent organ adviser.

John Panning, Tonal Director of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders (USA) writing in The Diapason (July 2014) of Paul’s work as consultant for the new organ in Merton College Oxford:

Paul Hale was an excellent organ adviser, understanding the technicalities and providing a bridge to the musicians at the college; he asked the right questions, not necessarily prescribing the answers.

The Right Reverend Monsignor Anthony Rogers VG Parish Priest of Our Lady & The English Martyrs, Cambridge

Our church possesses a very fine Abbott and Smith instrument, which was in need of renovation after a century of service. Our parish finance committee was most anxious that we should appoint a consultant to give us the benefit of his wisdom and an indep­endent view. The name of Paul Hale was mentioned to us.

Paul’s first visit involved a most thorough inspection of the instrument, and he was able to advise us not only on what work needed to be done, but also what was not needed. He advised us on which organ builders we should approach, and commented on the tenders which they submitted. The committee was most impressed with his professionalism, his objectivity, his wisdom, and his supreme cour­tesy. The committee felt from our first meeting that we had appointed the right man. For a group of people with no technical knowledge, he spoke to us with sensitivity and clarity. It was thanks to his advice that we felt sure that the right steps had been taken.

I cannot recommend Paul highly enough. If we were to need any work in the near future, we would most certainly use him again, and if ever I hear of anyone thinking of embarking on a similar project, I would most certainly advise them to contact him and make use of his excellent skills.

The Revd Peter Leighton, Cathedral Dean St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne

Paul Hale was appointed in March 2010 by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle as organ consultant for the construction and installation of a new three manual organ in St Mary’s Cathedral, Newcastle upon Tyne. The new instrument, designed and built by Kenneth Tickell, was planned to be situated in a newly built west end gallery, replacing the Cathedral’s Nigel Church two manual organ which had served the Cathedral well for thirty years but which has since found a new home elsewhere.

Paul was selected from a short list of eminently qualified consultants following a written presentation and interview process. He subsequently advised the Diocese throughout the process of procuring, building and installing the new organ. Critical stages included:

  • Refining the technical and musical brief at the feasibility study stage.
  • Advising on the selection of organ builders who were duly invited to provide tenders.
  • Reporting and advising on the tenders and presentations of the prospective organ builders. Paul also provided guidance for the Cathedral ensuring an informed selection of the builder who was eventually commissioned.
  • Working with the organ builder and the cathedral architect in developing a final design of the organ and gallery ensemble.
  • Providing assistance in presentations to the Diocesan Historic Churches Committee (HCC), whose approval was necessary for this Grade I Listed building. This took the form of a written commentary which was included in the Heritage and Statement of Need documents. Paul was also part of the team providing personal presentations to the HCC. As a Grade I Listed building English Heritage were consulted as were the Pugin and Victorian Societies.
  • Advising and commenting on the contract between the organ builder and the Cathedral.
  • Periodic visits to the builder’s workshop inspecting the work as it proceeded.
  • Interacting with the builder throughout the design and fabrication stages to refine the performance of the instrument.
  • Commenting on and approving valuations presented by the organ builder for payment.
  • Exercising an active role in the final commissioning of the instrument.

Paul has high technical understanding of organ construction and is, of course, a recognised musician in his own right. He also has impressive interpersonal and social skills, which are clearly invaluable when dealing with projects such as this which often and indeed usually involve a large number of interested parties whose aims may not always be in immediate harmony. Paul’s contribution throughout the whole of this project was invaluable and the clear testament of his abilities is reflected in the quality and beauty of the instrument which now adorns St Mary’s Cathedral.
I recommend him wholeheartedly.

John Jordan Music Director, R.C. National Shrine of Our Lady, Walsingham

In 1996, faced with the increasing deterioration of the condition of the historic organ in the Priory and Parish Church of St Margaret, King’s Lynn, the incumbent and Parochial Church Council accepted my advice to approach Paul Hale, Rector Chori at Southwell Minster, to act as consultant and adviser in the major enterprise of restoring our famous instrument to a state of sound reliability.

We were indeed fortunate that Paul accepted the challenge; throughout what turned out to be protracted negotiations over a number of years, he not only gave us skilled and careful advice, but was also a constant source of encouragement and support.

I have no doubt that Holmes & Swift, who undertook the work, would agree with me in finding it an exhilarating and deeply worthwhile experience to be working with Paul. Nothing ever seemed to be too much trouble for him, and I unreservedly commend him to any who consider employing his considerable skills in this work. Please do not hesitate to contact me should further information be required.

Richard Young Organ builder & restorer of The De Montfort Hall Concert Organ, Leicester

During 1996/97 I restored the three-manual concert Organ in De Montfort Hall, Leicester for which Mr Hale was the consultant. Mr Hale liaised with Leicester City Council and myself prior to and during the restora­tion and proved to be very helpful to both parties.

I have no hesitation in recommending Mr Hale as a consultant for similar projects. He has experience with pneumatic actions and a wide range of knowledge concerning organ restoration.