|Organs at St Gregory’s
Alfred Davies was called in again. He had made a name for
himself buying domestic organs from grand houses and re-homing them in
churches. The Aolean Company had specialised in providing such instruments
– for instance, the Barrett family had one in their home in Kingsthorpe
(the building that later became the prep school for Notre Dame convent
and then St David’s School). This is now in Christchurch on Wellingborough
Road. However, it was more usual for Davies to store the components of
the instruments he bought and then re-assemble them using parts from several
different original instruments. Such was the case for the organ he installed
at St Gregory’s, making use of the space provided by the architect
for the purpose.
The organ has done well, but after 30 years, is needing attention. However,
more seriously, it is not adequate for the current needs of the church,
so that, even if all the repair work were to be done, we would still have
an instrument which does not completely meet our needs.
The most obvious shortcoming is simply the volume of sound it can produce.
It sometimes happens that the congregation can drown the organ! A further
lack is in the tonal variety – there are only six sets of pipes,
which is a severe limitation.
A variety of faults are developing with the present organ, such that parts
of it are ceasing to work. The swell box action has been giving trouble
over some years, and now part of the pedal section has failed.
Because the work of rebuilding is highly labour-intensive, the cost of
the necessary repair would be considerable. It is therefore sensible to
think of a replacement.
Pipes or Chips
One option would be to buy an electronic instrument. They
have improved beyond all recognition in the past fifty years and the best
are very good; but remain an imitation of the genuine pipe instrument.
A quality pipe organ should last at least a generation before requiring
major attention. On the other hand, electronic instruments are usually
cheaper, but possibly would last less long.
Just as in the 1970s there were country house organs available, today
there are many church organs looking for new homes. Many of them are of
mediocre quality, and will end up on the scrap-heap. But amongst them
are a small number of truly great instruments. Their greatness is not
necessarily related to their size; rather to the quality of the manufacture
and voicing of the pipes.
We are fortunate, thanks to Dr John Rowntree, the Diocesan Organ Advisor,
to have found an genuinely great instrument which would cost no more to
install than a really good electronic organ.