Organs of distinction  JohnPage, Organ Builder

Restoration of the ex-Irvin's Marenghi

Installation of pipes

The trombones were already in, so the next pipes to be installed were the basses and accompaniments in the back. All pipes for each note were needed so I could check their speech on the wind. Several pipes speaking from wind in a common channel don't all receive the same pressure, so individual checking was out of the question. I fitted the basses, but came to a halt as there were two ranks of accompaniments with Judith. As the first row of these pipes needed to be stayed from the front of the organ I could go no further. The saxophone trumpets could have gone in, but they would have made it impossible to get to that first stay in the back. Little did I know at that time it would be a full six months before I could continue. The picture (right) shows the basses and half the accompaniments installed on one side.

Before fitting pipes, their channels were blown out. This was done before each rank was installed, to ensure no debris or dust could be trapped in the windways and get stuck in the pipes' narrow channels later. I achieved this very quickly using the stickers at the back of the main chest. It was for this reason I resisted the urge to fit the relay and keyframe until the very last minute. To have worked through the relevant notes using a scale music book would have taken hours longer, and worn out the book in the process.

In the middle of July 2005 I travelled to London to collect the pipes from Judith, and installed the remaining accompaniments. Of course, as with all flue pipes from Judith, I had to tension the tuning slides. Judith always leaves them flat, relying on their width to keep them tight in their slots. Unfortunately, changes in humidity render this approach disastrous. In dry weather the slots pull in, compressing the timber, so in damper weather the slides have room to move, and move they do - very easily. However, eventually, the basses and accompaniments were ready for testing. Note by note they were tuned and found to be speaking well. The box reeds, fitted with slides, needed to be carefully regulated for a good sound, by moving the slides to their optimum positions. The clarinet mixture, minus the reeds, shown here in position, but not stayed yet.

Then came the task of removing all these pipes again so they could be fixed permanently in position and stayed upright. Each pipe in turn had its foot wiped with a shellac-soaked cloth and gently tapped into position. A combination square ensured they were upright. Then each complete rank was stayed using the original beech stays and new brass screws. Finding a supplier for such screw sizes as 5/8" no. 6 slotted brass roundhead, or 3/8" 3s at a resonable price was made easier by use of the internet.

After fitting, all pipes needed to be blown out to rid them of debris left after drilling the stay holes. This was easily done with the flues using a length of plastic tube fitted to a balloon hand-pump. The reeds were not so simple. To prevent any debris dropping into the shallots I marked the positions of the stay holes, took each pipe out again for drilling and knocking bits out, then replacing them permanently. It was at this stage that I made the final bend in the tuning springs. Up to this point they could be completely removed to gain unrestricted access to the tongue/shallot assemblies if found necessary.

I then turned my attention to the clarinet mixture pipes (shown on right), to be mounted centrally on the back chest. It was then that I realised that there was a rank missing. So all the pipes I had were laid out, including violins and piccolos. Another rank was missing from the violins. This meant another trip to South London. Judith might have been able to make it by train with one rank, but not two. She needed to come to the yard to assist in the process of checking the voicing and regulation on the correct channels with all ranks speaking together, impossible on the voicing machine back at her workshop. She came back with me and the missing pipes, travelling on July 21st 2005, the very day of the second London bombing attempt. The 1½-hour journey down took 3 hours. I decided to wait around before making the return journey in the evening. This took over 2½ hours.

Next day I was raring to get on with the final stage of the job. The clarinet mixture pipes were installed, culminating with the trumpet, all handled as previously described. Then moving all the tools round to the front of the organ, I began with the saxophones, comprising saxophone reed, trumpet and flue helper. (Flue ranks in place shown on left) First the trumpets were installed. Their tuning springs were originally long enough to protrude at the top, waving about in the breeze, so with the help of a photo taken from the front with the piccolos in position, I had cut them down so they could be accessed through the gaps between notes, above the piccolos. Then followed the flue helpers which had, in fact, been pre-fitted earlier, and in the process found that some of the feet (very long, to bring the pipe tops into a pleasing line above the sax reeds) were not fitting well. Some time spent with a large file did the trick.

Finally, the saxophone reeds were installed. This was the first gilded rank to be fitted, and extreme care was taken to avoid touching their fronts. I had decided to paint their stays red, as had been done prior to my involvement in the early 1980s. I had a photograph showing red stays on the saxophone, clarinet and baritone pipes.

The violin pipes came next. As before, all tuning slides had been fitted flat, so I had the task of bending them to form tension in all 120 pipes, before finally fitting them into position and applying the original stays. Judith attended to the few still causing voicing problems, interspersed with spending time working through the only flue rank still not touched following its removal from the organ two years before - the baritone helpers.

Once I had finished the violins, the clarinet reed pipes followed. These are located in front of the violins, on their own riser. The riser itself hides the lever action below the violin chest and the bandmaster tubing. This latter fits onto small pieces of brass tube running through the riser so fitting the bandmaster is a simple matter.

The clarinets, also gilded, were treated as the other reeds, locating the stay holes, removing the pipes for drilling and cleaning out, then fixing them in permanently. The 8 smallest of these pipes have no stays, so needed to be very securely fixed at their feet. For this, I used rather more shellac than usual, but not so much that they couldn't be removed easily when necessary.

Following the clarinets came the piccolos, mounted on their risers on each side. The two ranks at the back are positioned alternately: open harmonic/stopped, and stayed in a row. In front of these are the brass pan-flutes, stayed by two beech strips one behind and one in front of the pipes, screwed together. Between these are the small open pipes, not stayed, but anchored at their feet.

Now all pipes on the main part of the organ were finally fitted. Only the baritones remained. These were mounted temporarily onto their chest which had been positioned on plastic crates in front of the organ. The chest had previously been tested for action, but not tubed up. For testing the pipes, tuning and setting the reeds' regulating slides I worked the actions from the levers beneath the chest. I hung a small weight on the levers so I had both hands free for the task. Once I was happy I removed the pipes once again and fitted the action tubing between the puff rail beneath the chest and the quick-release blocks on the front of the main organ.

I was now ready for the baritone case itself. Once hoisted onto the lowered panel on the lorry, suitably resting on trestles at the right height, the chest was fitted into it. The flue helpers were fitted and stayed at the back, then the case was brought to its final position at the front of the main case and bolted in. The reed pipes were then fitted in the same fashion as the other reeds, taking great care not to touch their gilded fronts.


© 2017, John Page
Restoration main page | Home page