All of us in the organ world are no doubt tired of the age old joke, Question: ‘Whats the difference between and organist and a terrorist’? Answer: ‘You can negotiate with a terrorist’
It no doubt stems from the probably correct recognition that if the congregation want to go in one direction and the organist in another there will only ever be one winner of that contest. But did you know that there are another church group that are often in constant conflict with the organist? I refer to the bell ringers.
I have never rung a church bell or even been in a tower when others are busy pulling the ropes. But I have come to learn that when the organ gets too loud the ringers often get so overwhelmed by the noise that they can no longer communicate the key moments when the ringing pattern changes and so the peal falls apart.
You may well ask how can an organ, usually so far away near a chancel cause such a distraction? The answer of course is that the organ is not always there but occasionally found at the west end on a gallery above the west door as seen below at St Mary & All Saints Beaconsfield.
Then the organ is all too close for the bell ringers and the situation can lead to tension between organist and the bell ringing team. Outnumbered 4, 6 or 8 to 1, I doubt the organist often does well out of these encounters.
And so it was for reasons such as this that we answered a recent call to visit St Mary’s in Tingewick, only about 6 miles from our Bicester Base.
The church has an elderly 2 manual Allen organ situated close to the chancel arch and for some reason, external speakers were added all the way down at the west end actually on the ringing chamber floor. Red rags and bulls come to mind.
The poor organist also served by sound coming from the console speakers could hardly hear the benefit of the speakers placed so far away. On the other hand the bell ringers could hear hardly anything else so we were asked to provide a solution to keep the peace.
The answer was relatively easy as a location much closer to the organ and high in the nave was readily available on the nave roof truss. Of course much harder to reach than the west end location. As you see it requires a temporary scaffold to fix and wire the speakers but with a little effort a much better result has been obtained. The speakers invisible as you come in from the west end. A sound source close to the organist that allowed the disconnection of the console speakers so there is now a near single point of broadcast.
With the Coronation now only weeks away bell ringers the length and breadth of the country will be hard at work preparing for a day of ringing of huge national pride and importance. This is the first time in the 16 years I have worked in the industry that we have been called in to resolve this situation. But now that you have read this, will it be the last?
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.