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Monday 8th March 2021
Another venturing forth today — to St Philip’s cathedral, Birmingham. I was privileged to act as consultant for the complete rebuilding of the historic organ there in 1992-3, by Nicholsons, who have been in charge of the instrument since the 1890s. It fell to them to save the organ in 1940 after a fire-bomb left the cathedral open to the skies (see photo below). It was stored in Pershore Abbey (a stone’s throw from where Carlo Curley’s ashes are now interred) and reinstalled in 1948 with a new console and electro-pneumatic action. I greatly enjoyed revisiting the instrument and was delighted to see that nothing much needs doing to it other than a gentle clean and some overhaul work to the keys and pedals. The Schwarbrick and Snetzler ranks sound as beautiful as ever, and the pair of 18th-century cases still gorgeous.
Wednesday 17th February 2021
I ventured out today to Ranmoor (Sheffield) — strictly necessary, on business, to ‘snag’ and sign-off an organ. Andrew Carter (seen here at the Ranmoor console) has been refurbishing every last piece of the fine Brindley & Foster / Nicholson / Wells organ at St John’s. This magnificent Victorian church has a superb choral and organ tradition — maintained to this day. The organ has a fine Nicholson console from their comprehensive rebuild and electrification of 1963. The David Wells rebuild and enlargement of 1997 was to a typically well thought-out tonal scheme by Roger Fisher. The recent work has been a complete releathering, cleaning, sorting out the wind system, tonal balancing and a full console refurbishment. It is the final major project in the long and distinguished career of Walker-trained Andrew Carter, who is handing over such contracts to Peter Wood & Son of Harrogate, with whom he will work for the time being. We wish Andrew all the best.
Saturday 23rd January 2021
Not getting out much in January, it has been a pleasure to put together for publication an autobiographical book by retired Nicholson Tonal Director, Guy Russell. Entitled A Life Full of Pipe Dreams, it will shortly be published by the Institute of British Organ Building. It's a great read, half the text being about Guy's life in the trade, the second half being a remarkably complete guide to pipe voicing. A unique book written by a unique and talented individual.
Wednesday 23rd December 2020
December has remained a busy month on the organ consulting front, with projects in Cambridge (Chesterton), Corbridge, Birmingham (Olton), Radley College, Ravenstonedale, Rochester, Sheffield (Ranmoor), Platt (Borough Green) etc all underway with organbuilders, and others being planned. Thanks to Covid, travel has been limited to visiting one organ-builder, which made me smile as my latest two big projects will in due course involve very lengthy travel — to Nairobi Cathedral in one direction (Kenya) and to Christ Church Cathedral, Christchurch, in another (New Zealand)! I'm sure we all long for the inoculation so that things can gradually get back to normal. Best wishes for Christmas and the New Year to anyone reading this.
Saturday 7th November 2020
It was good to be able to undertake an organ survey earlier this week, in a fascinating church in the charming Warwickshire village of Alveston; sadly it will be the last visit for a while, due to the Covid restrictions. The organ is a very well-made Nicholson of 1898, rebuilt by them in 1959 and rather fiddled around with in 2001 — not by them. It will 'come up' very effectively and give the church another century or so of distinguished service. The Rood screen and chancel are so beautiful I wanted to put up this photo on my website.
Saturday 10th October 2020
What a total delight it was to be performing again today — and with my good friend and esteemed colleague, baritone Stephen Cooper. St Peter's Church, Nottingham, with its enterprising Director of Music, Dr Peter Siepmann, has relaunched its popular Saturday morning concerts — socially distanced and sans coffee. Accompanied at the piano by yours truly, Stephen sang groups of delightful songs by Arthur Somervell and Eric Thiman, bookended by 'Fine knacks for ladies' and Finzi's roistering 'Rollicum rorum'. So good to be back in the saddle.