Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Beautifying the church organ

click photo to enlarge
What can you do to integrate a thumping great organ into its place in the church. There are two main approaches to this problem. The first is hide it (in an arch, alcove, etc), and the second is beautify it, either by making it complementary to the existing fittings and furnishings, or by making it an eye-catching thing of beauty in its own right.

Many of the first church organs were subject to beautification. The keyboard was encased in an elaborate, decorative, wooden surround, and the pipes were also wrapped around - to a greater or lesser extent - with pierced and carved wood. I've seen wooden organ cases of the most elaborate design, all veneers, inlay and sculpture, carved by the likes of Grinling Gibbons, that display all the decorative details at the disposal of the eighteenth century, from swan-neck pediments to cornucopias and swags. Much the same is true of the nineteenth century attempts to beautify the organ, though using the heavier decoration of those years. However, Victorian designers often deliberately displayed the pipes themselves, in ranks, graduated by size, with painted, stencilled details applied to the metal-work, much as in the example shown from Little Eversden. These designs are often very delicate, and reflect the fashion of the time. Some of the Arts & Crafts stencilling is particularly good.

This style of decoration continued into the twentieth century. However, those years were often times when renovation was the order of the day, and the installation of new pipe organs was something of a rarity. On the whole the restorers maintained and repaired that which was there. But, a few brave vicars employed architects to fashion new cases for their organs. I came across one such, dating from 1972, in Spalding church the other day. The painted wooden screen featuring parallel slats and inverted square pyramids is by G.G.Pace, an architect and designer of church furnishings whose work I have admired in Yorkshire and Lancashire churches. My photograph doesn't display the interest of Pace's design very well - I was looking to create a semi-abstract image - but I may return and take another photograph to show this fine piece of work which is a welcome change from the usual polished wood cases.

photographs & text (c) T. Boughen

Photo 1 (Photo 2)
Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 5.1mm (24mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2
Shutter Speed: 1/24 (1/8)
ISO: 400
Exposure Compensation: -0.66 (-1.0) EV
Image Stabilisation: On