So, I had a chat with our organ tuner, Tarquin Wiggins, on Friday. He’d visited on Thursday and found the organ so bad that he had to abort tuning.
The four leather bellows needing repair are now leaking very badly, with the result that the system is losing pressure very easily. Parishioners at St Andrew’s may have noticed the organ cutting out intermittently during the last hymn on Sunday; this is a result of the loss of pressure. How much it happens is quite variable, though it seems linked to temperature. On Thursday evening it was bad enough that even using only three very quiet stops the organ was still cutting out. Eventually the leaks will get bad enough that the organ will not be playable at all.
Tarquin is going to attempt to put the two worst-affected bellows out of commission temporarily. Hopefully, this will reduce the amount of leaking to the point that the system can stay pressurised, but there is no guarantee. If it works, it will mean large parts of the organ will be silent — essentially, there will be only half an organ to play. It’s likely that the pedals will be affected, as well as a number of other stops, but we won’t know until we try. Even if the operation is successful, I must stress that this is not a solution, but rather a deferral of the problem; and any part of the organ not being played regularly will deteriorate faster in other ways, so it really isn’t ideal.
If it doesn’t work, or if the system is regularly losing pressure before then, there is a risk that the blower will break. It is meant to fill non-leaking bellows, not leaking ones! If this happens it will cost an additional £5000-6000 to repair and the organ will be completely non-functional. In the meantime, if the organ is cutting out then fewer stops must be used; if it continues to cut out then it must be turned off completely between hymns to rest the blower.
There is a strong possibility that we will not be able to use the organ at all by Christmas. Accordingly, I am planning a carol service that can be sung unaccompanied. I thought about trying to have some instrumental accompaniment — a string quartet, perhaps — but our church is not warm in the winter and I fear most instrumental musicians will struggle too much in the cold.
I’m also hoping that the hymnathon will really take off. I still don’t have sign-up forms available, but if you want to take part please e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and we can e-mail you the form when it’s done. The schedule of hymns is now available, and there is also an alphabetical list of hymns so you can find out when your particular favourite will be sung.