Looking back at our major achievements
It is frightening just how fast last year passed by and we are now in sight of mid summers day. Recent conversations with a few customers prompted me to write this review, to create a single post where the major achievements of our year are set out.
No doubt much of what is said here has appeared in individual posts throughout the year but as time passes these posts get buried in a web site where the information gets harder and harder to find.
So I am now guilty of what all our governments do, recycling old news into new news! I hope though even if you have read this before seeing this snap shot of a year will convey just how busy it has been.
2016 was without doubt our busiest year seeing instrument sales grow again falling just short of a double century. Most rewarding of all was seeing our church installations grow substantially. We regard this as the most significant evidence that the Viscount offering, and our physical modelling instruments in particular, are increasingly recognised for their sound quality and extraordinarily good value.
Digital Organs on the rise
I understand that a new digital church organ almost inevitably means a pipe organ has been retired or scrapped. That is not without controversy amongst certain parts of our community. I take the view we should take some encouragement that these churches are at least finding the support to provide a serviceable instrument even though at times we may wish the larger sums involved could be raised for the restoration of a worthy pipe organ.
For those pipe organ lovers there is a positive straw to grab. We saw a significant increase in demand in 2016 for hire instruments to privide cover while pipe organs are being rebuilt and refurbished. During the year we covered at least 6 churches that had commissioned major repair works so some churches at least are reaching deep into their pockets to keep their pipe organs in good shape. You can find out more about some of these stories in our blog series about renting an organ. We are hoping for continued success for this type of service in the future.
A busy start to the year
The year began with the introduction of a new video series ‘Hymn of the Month’ which we recorded at St John’s Harpenden. Our tutorial series was moved and continues on but featuring our custom built Regent Classic instruments. This year we are using pieces set for ABRSM organ exams and so hopefully being more relevant to a wider audience of students.
At St John’s we also recorded some of the pipe organ tracks for our online quiz. This ran for 4 months and attracted over 1500 entries from all over the world. The prize, an Envoy 35-F organ was restricted to entries from the UK and Ireland. We presented it last November to the winner who had most generously gifted the organ to his church. Quite the most exciting phone call I have ever had to make.
We also added a one off project to produce a series of instructional videos for owners of our Envoy, Regent and Sonus physical modelling instruments. How often do you get exhausted reading user manuals as they get more and more technical? I certainly do! So it seemed obvious to publish these instructions in easily digested video chapters. These are now all online and we hope you will find them useful.
In March I made my debut guest appearance in the organ world as the after dinner speaker at the Newcastle District Organists Association. It is a long time since I was in Newcastle and I had a wonderful evening with organ enthusiasts followed by a lovely morning on the fabulous Willis organ in St George’s Gateshead.
Viscount giving back!
Continuing our theme of ‘putting something back’ we committed providing 5 organs to the St Paul’s London Organ Outreach project and to fund 50% of the teaching cost. It seems even giving organs away moves relatively slowly but by December we had found 3 East End schools to take instruments and new youngsters are being introduced to the instrument in schools that would otherwise not have them on the syllabus. Let’s hope we see a few getting hooked as I did too many years ago now to count back!
We have also provided on a long term loan, an instrument for the Diocese of Leeds Organists Training Programme until a suitable pipe organ becomes available.
Lots of Organ Events
In September, my great friend and top class organist Joseph Nolan came all the way from Perth Australia to play a series of concerts for us on a number of recent church installations of our Regent series instruments. These recitals were provided by us at no cost to the churches concerned so giving them an opportunity to show off the instruments and raise some money from ticket sales or a collection. At the same time we spent 3 very happy days in Selby Abbey with Joseph making a DVD. Provision of a loan instrument covering repair of the historic pipe organ was just concluding so this was a last opportunity to film in the Abbey. This DVD will be ready for release in June 2017.
Throughout the year we have promoted pipe organ concerts and teaching events extensively with social media and also in the case of the Selby Abbey summer concert series with significant hard copy advertising. Each year we also provide 2 organs for the London Organ Week summer teaching course. This was part of the St Giles Barbican Organ School which has recently been taken over by the RCO after Anne Marsden Thomas OBE retired.
Looking onwards and upwards
We appointed a new dealer David Martin (Keynote Organs) based near Belfast in Northern Ireland who has made a great start selling 6 instruments in his first few months working with us.
Most businesses look forward to Christmas being a traditional time of lower activity. In our world it is quite the reverse with great focus on getting instruments installed in churches for the Christmas celebrations and Easter of course as well. So our year ended with a crescendo of activity and we looked forward to the pressure coming off in January!
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.