The Clint Eastwood Hour

I am in the process of looking for a redundant organ for a church in France that has asked me for one and has called on my services as a skilled non-professional organ builder. I found a number of available redundant instruments on a website about English organs in general. I wrote to the e-mail addresses given to me. One wrote me a most convoluted e-mail, suggesting that I should cooperate with a long drawn-out bureaucratic process. The organ will end up scrapped! This is the problem with much of our closed English mentality and partly what is behind the latest stupidities of the politicians. I’m afraid this was my “Clint Eastwood” moment.

Most of the organs I have dealt with successfully came from non-conformist churches.

* * *

Dear Mr Chadwick

Many thanks for your interest in the organ that we are seeking to re-house from (church) here in (town). Let me start by quickly explaining where things stand vis a vis the organ’s availability. The Church Commissioners have approved a Scheme for the future use of (church), but this is dependent on Listed Building consent being given by the XX District Council to the proposed changes necessary for the new use planned for the building. One of the changes is the removal of the organ. We (the PCC) are currently caught up in a very bureaucratic planning process but hope for a decision in February or March next year.

Assuming all goes well and the necessary planning permission is forthcoming, the Church Commissioners will then allow the Scheme to be adopted. At that point, the Bishop of (diocese) will confirm what is to happen to all the fittings and furnishings. We are in the process of preparing an inventory for him and, against each item, we must give a recommendation as to where it should go. As we are a charity, the trustees have a duty to try and ensure that, should items need to be re-housed and not be gifted to a church, then they must try and ensure proper value is obtained for them.

Provided the PCC has assurance that the organ is destined to be re-housed in a church and that there are no costs accruing to the PCC, then I suspect that the PCC might well look favourably on a request from your Diocese. You should be aware that we have had other tentative enquiries concerning this organ and so, at this juncture nothing can be promised. As an aside, if you were to catch the PCC’s eye, are you able to offer any advice on how to export the ivory (as in the keys and stops) to France?

I think the best way forward would be if you could send me full details of your Diocese, your church and about yourself, your proposal for the organ’s future and confirmation that you would carry the costs of its dismantling and removal – yes, we should be able to help with muscle power at the critical moments. I will then record these on the inventory. Once Listed Building consent is granted, I will get back in touch with you to confirm whether or not you are still interested in the organ. If you are, your proposal for the organ will go on the inventory, together with any others we have received, and the PCC will then decide where they would like the organ to go. They will then recommend this option to the Bishop. I will, of course, be keeping those interested in acquiring the organ fully informed at each stage.

The organ is currently located in (church – town – county – postcode). You would be most welcome to come and see it, just drop me an email as and when you would be able to call by and I will arrange access for you. As to the organ’s condition, both the Diocesan Organ Adviser and our own church organist assure me that it is a lovely instrument, that it is in full working and has been regularly serviced over the years. I have attached some details from the (website about organs), some photographs and also a couple of photocopies showing its provenance.

Hopefully that’s everything and I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards

(name withheld)

Dear Mr X,

Many thanks for your kind reply, but I really do think it would be best to advertise the organ as being available when it becomes available.

By the time it does indeed become available, I will have probably found a suitable instrument for the parish that has asked me to do the job as a skilled non-professional organ builder. I have no intention of endearing myself to any PCC, though I have never had any difficulty in exporting dismantled organs with ivory parts.

If your “bureaucracy” is inclined to cut and minimise its procedure to avoid the organ ending up in an impossible situation (no one wanting it and its having to be scrapped), unless your church intends to keep it, then I would be prepared to give information about the parish of (town) in the Diocese of XX in the YY region of France and its commitment to bear the costs of its dismantling and removal. I would be alone doing the job other than volunteers prepared to help dismantle, carry and load the heaviest parts of the organ.

I live in France, and the cost of “popping over” and examining the organ would be disproportionate. My usual way is to trust what I am told, and pull out if the information proves to be false. I have never had to do that. I once had a clergyman and parish council wanting to stop my work frequently for meetings in the church, and reproved my assistant and myself for eating take-away food and camping in the vestry. I proposed leaving the dismantled organ strewn all over the church floor and going away. Fortunately, the vicar was reasonable and agreed to hold his meetings at the vicarage and leave me in peace to do the job. The organ in question is now in a Benedictine abbey in France. Sorry for my “Clint Eastwood” manner!

You might be able to dispose of the organ to an acquirer willing to go through a long and drawn-out process, not under threat from the impeding Brexit. I wish you every success. If you decide to simplify the procedure, let me know.

Kindest regards,

Anthony Chadwick

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5 Responses to The Clint Eastwood Hour

  1. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    What a business! I suppose one should be grateful neither clerks nor Synodical Houses of the C of E have promulgated a binding national Safeguarding of (Church) Organ Donation protocol!

    • They are shooting themselves in the foot because it’s a “buyers’ market”, meaning that there are more organs available than people who want them and have the skills to do the dismantling and transporting / can afford to get an organ builder to do the job. Those who are more self-important with their bureaucratic procedures will find no solution for their organ and will have to send it for scrap when the developers move in to convert the former church into whatever. It’s not my problem. Usually, the non-conformists are the most approachable.

      • David Llewellyn Dodds says:

        My wife’s Church bought an organ built by Henry Jones in 1881/82 which had been in the (Roman) Catholic St. Peter’s Church in Shoreham – via an organ restorer who had it from someone who bought up English organs to resell to interested Dutch Churches. One of her newspaper colleagues who is also one of the organists, has written a history here:

        https://gkvbarneveld.nl/kerkgebouw/orgel

        I always enjoy hearing it since its inaugural concert, and it is heartening that such organs are rescued and appreciated!

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