I am sure at the beginning of 2022 we were all feeling justly happy for the future. Covid was finally a disease that could be managed thanks to our amazing vaccines and the level of take up. Life was surely back to normal to stay.
Recording another organ tutorial series
My first ‘event’ of the year saw the realisation of a well planned challenge to create a series of video tutorials that explored psalmody, which is such a crucial element of the English choral tradition and a cornerstone of our sung choral evensong services. We were most fortunate to secure the use of the Old Royal Naval College Chapel and Trinity Laban College Choir directed by Ralph Allwood, who I think you will agree is a consummate teacher and full of knowledge on the subject. On the second week of January we were able to film a wealth of material that became our 2022 video organ tutorial series. You can also see more “behind the scenes” pictures from the recording sessions.
The year got off to a good start and it was clear that our important church customer base was waking up from the long Covid interlude. Back once more battling with the tough decisions on what to do with failing pipe organs or elderly electronic instruments that were in need of some TLC. Situations amplified by the lack of use during the pandemic shut downs for both pipe and electronic organs alike.
And then came the tragedy of the Ukraine war. I am in no doubt this threw an immediate spanner in the works. I freely admit to being hugely distracted and anxious as we all began to wonder just how far Putin was prepared to go to achieve his goals. The ‘recovery’ it seemed was short lived. Never the less, we did continue the climb back to normality albeit at a slower pace than hoped for.
Church installations some distance away from the peak
The year saw us complete some 15 church installations, a far cry from the 2019 peak of near 50 but importantly new orders were also flowing in. Among those completed were long term projects at St John’s Royston, a church destroyed by fire 7 years earlier. We also installed a custom built Regent Classic instrument at Holy Trinity Rayleigh where a major internal refurbishment was completed in time for Easter.
We also completed a significant number of school instruments and saw 2 new practice instruments arrive at Sidney Sussex College Cambridge (adding to our 2 at Kings College) and an instrument for St John’s College School.
It’s a really happy moment when we supply instruments destined to engage with young musicians as they inevitably are the future of the art. So it was especially encouraging to work with the RCO Foundation in 2022 and supply 8 Chorum 40-S practice instruments to schools enabling them to add organ to their music department offering.
We also found a very worthy new home for an instrument gifted by the family of the late George Munday. This 2 manual Norwich instrument went to the English Martyrs School in Nottingham where it already has a busy group of new students putting it to hard work.
Organ recital with Anna Lapwood at Aldeburgh Festival
Our Summer highlight was supporting Anna Lapwood with a hire instrument for a recital in the Aldeburgh Festival.
This was a bit of a military exercise with short time slots to set up and decommission the instrument between events requiring very early morning starts by our team based a 4 hour drive away. The day after the concert Anna ran some organ workshops for local schools so we also set up an instrument in the concert hall foyer doubling the educational capacity.
Again it was a delight to see so many youngsters enthusiastic to jump on the bench and experience the joy of stops, pistons, expression pedals and all the other gizmos you need to understand and master to become a proficient organist.
Anna is an amazing ambassador for the organ and her social media profile and presentation of the instrument seems to be transforming the instruments popularity. I don’t believe we have ever seen so much of the Royal Albert Hall organ played and the instrument being seen so widely outside the traditional environment of it’s church accompaniment role.
Organ hire and a custom built chamber organ
Summer saw the Christmas Pantomime season start early at the Place of Westminster providing another but less sinister distraction from daily life. In the real world we got on with the installation of a 3 manual drawstop instrument in Bristol Cathedral.
This is a long term hire in anticipation of the pipe organ rebuild scheduled for later this decade. Such is the anxiety of imminent failure of their pipe organ that ours now sits there ready to spring to life at a moments notice.
2021 saw Regent Classic receive a very exciting and unusual commission to build a single manual chamber organ with detachable pedal board. The process of establishing the final complex specification took some months of lengthy email exchange.
The pandemic slowed down supply of the hand made keyboard before which little build work could can really commence. So it was not until July 2022 that the instrument was finished which happily coincided with our customer’s visit to the UK from California.
We were able to review the voicing, make adjustments and agree on the building of some new voices. November of 2022 saw the instrument finally arrive in St James Church Wilshire Boulevard when I could travel out to Los Angeles and supervise the final voicing and set up.
Busy end to the year and looking forward to 2023
December turned out to be a busy month as well, home practice sales coming out of the blue to both us and our dealer network. Between Christmas and New year further organ hires were booked for delivery immediately on our return from holiday.
The first quarter of 2023 is already set fair so it is with some hope that I conclude the issues of the last 3 years are now behind us and we look forward to much better times ahead.
And a final surprise saw Viscount feature in a TV programme put out on BBC Channel 4 on Christmas Eve and now available on streaming. It’s called Organ Stops and sets out the challenges facing churches up and down the country and the fate of their redundant organs.
I will be signing autographs but the queue hasn’t yet built up at the showroom. Funny that?
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.