Lastingham Organ Project:
story so far.
For a history of the existing instrument,
which dates from 1859, a paper was written for the
PCC: ‘St Mary
Lastingham’s Organ: History & Notes’, compiled for
the PCC meeting of 9th May 2005.
By mid-2004 it was clear that the organ,
although rebuilt and enlarged in 1963, was in a bad
way. There are two
distinct sets of problems: musical, and
Although a low-cost attempt to remedy the musical
problems had been undertaken in 2003, the organ was
persistently out of tune. Independently, we were
advised not to spend any more money on it, and to
replace it. Other professional organists concurred.
We were invited Principal Pipe Organs in York to
give their recommendation. A visit was made in March 2005,
and after submitting their report were invited to look
out a suitable replacement organ.
The first available instrument fell though,
and it was not until November 2006 that it was
confirmed that the Conacher organ in St Laurence,
York, would be available to us. An invitation was
given to draw up proposals for rebuilding it at
Lastingham, adapting it to our needs.
copy of the Proposals document was delivered to each
PCC member, the organist, other keen musicians, some
of the concertgoers, and the Concert Secretary.
A PCC member then proposed
‘a complete report on the whole concept of
replacing, or restoring, the existing organ,
containing the full facts, arguments and financial
details of all the possibilities – restoration, a
small choir accompaniment organ, or a recital
organ.’ Here it is – updated in September 2007.
I’ve called it ‘FAQs’, because it is
a compendium of questions I’ve actually been asked,
or which might reasonably be asked.
In June 2007 the faculty was obtained, and
the PCC agreed to go ahead with grant applications
and to look into how else to raise funds . The
scheme would be called ‘Lastingham Organ Project.’
In August an ‘Organ Barbecue’ was held at the
Vicarage. Jozef Mycielski, Director of Fundraising
at Ampleforth College, gave a talk on fundraising, and
after supper the Choir sung African and other music. The task
that lay ahead was the organisation, launching
and management of the Appeal.
1. Why do we need to replace our organ?
It was a mere 40
or so years ago that the 1859 organ was rebuilt and
enlarged, and in 2003 some new pipework was acquired
in an attempt to correct tonal deficiencies (see
below). However it then became clear that there
were serious underlying problems which had not been
addressed. There are two main factors that had to be
taken in to account.
mechanical and electrical components,
impossibility of tuning the instrument
Pipework with a
limited tonal range, lacking variety and clarity.
‘The organ in
effect consists of a chorus of flutes’ (Hunter,
Diocesan Organ Adviser, to David Haddon-Reece, 12
October 1993), making the expensive repairs that
would be needed not worth doing.
confirmed by the following.
may be remembered that in February 2005, at a
concert given by the choir of Chelmsford Cathedral,
with its organist Robert Poyser, part of the
programme had to be abandoned due to the poor
performance of the organ.
14 March 2006 GC wrote: As you may well have
found from your own experience, the instrument has
deteriorated significantly since my last visit. In
a number of the stop sliders on the Great Organ are
failing to register adequately, so that many of the
pipes are short of wind and either do not work at
all or produce a very pale sound. In consequence,
their tone and tuning is quite unacceptable and I
would imagine that your organists will be unable to
use these stops.
further notes on the Swell Organ are also now out of
action by reason of additional perished pneumatic
motors and valves which supply them with wind. This,
too, makes use of these stops impossible or
In short, the
organ has reached that stage where so much of the
pipework is effectively out of action that the
overall musical viability is called into question.
You know from the previous reports that nothing can
be done to improve the situation and that the
decline is terminal, so to speak.
Please could the
PCC have a fully independent assessment?
experience, together with GC’s advice, may well seem
to put the need for a replacement beyond argument.
We do have, however, four additional
2. What is the long-term future of Lastingham
What do we want
for our church? Or, as this sort of question is
sometimes posed, ‘What is God’s will for this
church?’ This rhetoric emphasises the idea of
something beyond our present vision – and our very
understandable attitude of caution.
will surely want to formulate their own vision. Here
are some ideas:
traditional Church of England village church
thriving church, with good music and liturgical
contribution from other mainstream churches
heritage site and tourist attraction
It may well be
asked whether St Mary’s can survive these days
purely as a ‘traditional C of E village church.’ I
have to say I doubt whether it can. There are
several factors here:
demographic changes in the countryside
retreat of Christendom in the West
possibly an impending financial crisis of the C of E
rapid growth of independent churches.
desire for ‘things to be done properly’.
It might well be
argued that we ought to seeking to become part of a
wider network, the wider church, which is both
firmly based within historic Christianity and also
prepared to think in a more global dimension. This
is indeed the vision we are endeavouring to bring
supplement and enhance this by developing other
sides to our church life, as we are managing to do,
thanks to the choir and the concerts and some
unusual services and other events.
therefore need to consider an organ that is better
than a simple ‘sing-along’ instrument.
It is assumed
that church life, i.e. regular prayer and worship
within the mainstream Tradition must continue to be
the backbone of who we are and what we do. We are
very aware that Christendom is retreating in Western
Europe. What we would not want to see, then, is St
Mary’s lapsing into a mere part of the heritage
industry. We are proud of the concerts we run, and
we know that this is helping to keep the church
functioning. Yet liturgy and worship must still be
in the forefront.
Taking all this
into account, we can identify for a new organ
project the general aim of building up a good
musical tradition, and in particular: -
accompany the liturgy, as opposed to mere
hymn-singing – both choir and congregation
attract good organists
like one of the purposes of introducing the piano
(which has been on loan to us since 2004), to
encourage local musicians generally, including those
who would like to learn the organ. You never know
what may come of this.
host liturgical/singing workshops
Someone has said
the church has never been more used. This suggests
that at least some of these aspirations are actually
happening. We are speaking of more than mere
of Principal Pipe Organs writes:
I am sure that you are absolutely right to explore
and develop every avenue of use for the church as
well as its direct liturgical function if it is to
survive in the future. Just because the building
lends itself so well to musical use, then this is an
obvious avenue to pursue. The church’s musical
tradition is rich and varied and an instrument with
adequate resources will provide an excellent medium
for its realization in all sorts of ways.
3. As a small village, how could we manage to
sustain a programme of concerts and other events?
to organ recitals and other concerts, how many could
there be in a year?
present there are about six. Some are given by
professional musicians, their fees often being paid
by a local trust, while in other cases they give a
‘charity concert’. Profits have gone to the PCC.
be our relationship with Ryedale Festival?
is to be hoped that a good replacement organ at
Lastingham would be a welcome resource for the local
music fraternity. We already host a ‘Coffee
Concert’ each year. There could be organ recitals.
2006 the Ryedale Festival’s Artistic Director
approached me to ask whether we might host the
annual Festival Eucharist. This was an honour, but
with the present organ the answer must certainly be
annual number of concerts is to be increased
further, how is a small congregation in a small
village going to cope with the organisation of all
the concerts, if the time comes when the existing
organisers could not carry on?
We are building
up a group of people who are willing to carry out
the tasks – publicity, printing programmes, moving
chairs, lighting etc; and also providing hospitality
to musicians. Many of these are outside the circle
of regular churchgoers and PCC members, and include
the choir and the concertgoers. This is now spread
quite widely – the Rosedale organist lives near
4. Granted that we do have to replace our organ,
what are the options?
The options are
(a) a small
‘sing-along’ organ like Cropton’s
Conacher organ in question, restored and enlarged as
in the present proposals
(c ) something
in between (a) and (b)
Why not a small ‘sing-along’ organ like Cropton’s?
It has been
suggested that Lastingham doesn’t need a large
organ, and that the cost of a smaller replacement
organ (about the size of Cropton’s) would not be
more than the cost of transporting and installing an
old give-away organ. Here are three responses to
We’ve already had
a long wait – almost two years – for the organ that
is now proposed. Smaller ones are in even shorter
(2) The need for proper restoration
Most of the
stock of redundant instruments is a century old and
you cannot just move one in from elsewhere without
properly restoring it first.
(3) Musical issues
The size of an instrument needs to be related to the
building in which it serves and, especially, to the
tonal resources which are judged adequate to suit
its liturgical and musical uses.
An instrument as small as that at Cropton has no developed musical
‘choruses’. It will accompany hymns at a very basic
level but the limited choice of stops will restrict
musical use, even at the hands of an enterprising
player. It would certainly not be able to accompany
choirs adequately, nor provide the resources for
solo use to the degree that you have asked for at St
The scheme we
have discussed for St Mary’s will provide the
musical resources that you need both for now and in
What about an instrument in between (a) and (b)?
A case for
accepting (b) has been set out above: in GC’s
covering letter and elsewhere in this paper, which
takes the line that it is the right instrument for
the building. This is supported by Frank Sutcliffe,
the Diocesan Organ Adviser.
nevertheless be objected that £75 000 is
considerably more than the £45 - £55 000 figure
mentioned in the report of 15 March 2005. Answers:
Again we must think of availability. As mentioned
above, smaller organs are in short supply and we
have already waited two years.
Forster & Andrews organ that turned out not to be
available was indeed a little smaller than the
explained below, the cost of registration aids
increases the cost by almost £13 000.
question of the increased cost is further discussed
have during this past year searched for other
instruments. There have been none in the diocese.
There were two Harrisons said to be available
further north, with a spec. similar to the Conacher,
but I did not manage to find out whether they were
actually available. I revisited the websites of the
British Institute of Organ Studies (BIOS), and also
Institute of British Organbuilders’ (IBO) List of
to see whether we were missing a Harrison or
Cavaillé Coll nearby! Well, there were various
two-manual organs, including a promising one in
Bristol. But who has time and energy to trudge to
Bristol, or the knowledge to make an assessment? And
what would we tell our present organ builder?
would arguably be negligent of the PCC not to go for
the best possible option. As Archdeacon Paul said at
his visitation in December, there’s a lot going on
here at Lastingham and we deserve something good.
Why not an electronic/digital organ?
According to an independent survey (in the annually
published Organ Builder Magazine) the average life
expectancy of electronic/digital organs is currently
in the order of fourteen years. (One particular
electronic installation lasted only 2½ years!) We
know that the circuitry of electronic organs (as
indeed of certain types of pipe organs as well) does
not take kindly to the damp atmosphere of country
churches and one manufacturer told me that their
sound quality deteriorates from day 1 (as it also
does for any hi-fi system). This is because the
card used in the loudspeakers hardens and distorts
the sound. The York Diocese will only grant a
faculty for an electronic instrument in unusual
The Royal School of Church Music comments that the
quality of singing is ‘listless’ in churches with
The sound quality of all but the most expensive
electronic/digital instruments is generally
disappointing or poor. They provide a useful medium
for practice instruments in the home or for
entertainment but there are few in churches which
can be considered serious and successful musical
Three more questions connected with the options
How did Cropton
assess the replacement of their organ?
Diocesan Organ Adviser, then a paper compiled by ASF
and circulated to PCC members.
Should there not
be a second quotation for a replacement pipe organ?
quotation we now have is for a particular
instrument, and one that has been looked after by
the organ builder giving the quotation.
already mentioned, such small instruments are in
short supply, and the one proposed has taken two
years to find.
Suppose we did approach other organ builders, asking
them to look out a suitable instrument, or for a
quote to restore and adapt one sourced by ourselves.
Comparing like with like, we could fairly easily
predict a quote by Harrison & Harrison being more,
and by our previous organ builder less. But who is
going to do this? And would the answer affect our
have been told that an independent report would have
to be paid for, and I do believe we now have enough
of these – see main question 1 above.)
What will happen
to the existing organ?
following parts be re-used, assuming no serious
problems are encountered.
Fifteenth by Willis (acquired 2003) – all 56 pipes
Trumpet by Binns (acquired 2003) – bottom 18 out of
the 56 pipes
Open Diapason, Principal, Stopped Diapason (Forster
& Andrews 1859) – in each rank the lower 30 out of
the 56 pipes
pedalboard (made for the 1963 rebuild)
oak case, made c.1963
blower (new in 1963)
Other parts, I
understand, are not worth salvaging.
5. Matters of space and appearance, and some
Would the Conacher organ fit into the available
space? Where will the additional pedal pipework be
[The] present chamber was surveyed at an earlier stage to ensure
that the instrument would fit successfully. The
storage area in the Flower Vestry would remain as at
The new Pedal slider soundboard is planned for the
Western side of the organ chamber. It should
therefore be feasible to express some of the
Principal 8ft basses (painted the same colour as the
fronts on the North facing case).
is the history of the
replacement organ proposed?
built for St Olaves’s Church in York by Peter
Conacher of Huddersfield in 1874. It was moved to St
Laurence’s in the early 1900s, and it is believed
that no tonal changes were made in that move.
Conacher trained in Leipzig, where he was an apprentice organ
builder and voicer, then worked for Hill & Sons and
later Walker & Sons. In 1873 he started his own
business and Springwood Organ Works in Huddersfield
was opened. A number of French organ builders were
brought to join the family firm, some of whom
may well have
trained under the famous Aristide Cavaillé Coll.
The organ works was said
at the time to be the largest and best equipped in
England, and with its large steam engine, full
compliment of machinery and eighty craftsmen, built
around thirty large organs each year.
have heard that the tuning problems are simply due
to temperature fluctuations in the building. Is this
possible? If so, it will surely be a problem with
Michael Fletcher in a letter to me dated 13 June
2004 does allege that the tuning problem may be due
to temperature fluctuations because of the stone
vaulted roof. He cites an article in Organist’s
Review of June 1991, page 110. However, this may
not be relevant. GC says: As sound travels
faster in warmer air than in cold, the tuning of all
musical instruments is affected in some way or
another by temperature fluctuations. In general
terms, the different flue stops of an organ (i.e.
all except the reeds) move up and down with changing
temperature reasonably together. Problems can arise
if the extremes of temperature between Summer (heat
off) and Winter (heat on) are excessive but,
assuming a thermostatically controlled heating
system giving out even warmth, then the tunings in
Summer and Winter will cope with any adjustments
I would comment that the majority of tuning problems
with your present instrument are due to
imperfections in the soundboards rather than to
anything else. For example, various notes of the
Great Fifteenth 2ft are lacking an adequate wind
supply so that their tuning is virtually impossible
at present. The proposals for restoring the Conacher
slider soundboards already allow for fitting
soundboard seals to eliminate any problems in this
are the ‘tonal changes’ proposed, and why do we need
of a mid to late 19th century English
organ was not the same as one would want now. For a
recital instrument, or even to accompany singing,
extra brightness is expected. In the present
proposals, we have made provision for : –
mixtures on the Great Organ
replacement of the Oboe 8 with a Superoctave 2, to
be formed from our existing Willis Fifteenth, as
extra ranks on a new pedal organ: to provide both
flute and diapason, to be
formed from some of the 1879 F&A pipework; and a
robust reed stop, formed from 18 pipes from the Trumpet 8 which we obtained in 2003
and 12 new pipes.
is ‘piston capture action’? With the
requires, almost £13 000 is added to the cost. Do
we really need it?
Organ Builder writes: The
scheme allows for the inclusion of electro-magnetic
drawstops both at the console and to pull the stop
sliders at the manual and pedal soundboards. This
will enable the fitting of a solid state piston
capture action to permit the player instant and
flexible control of his drawstops. This is
certainly not a luxury on an instrument of this
size, especially considering the needs of service
accompaniment and the repertoire generally. Indeed,
its absence would be seen as a significant
drawback. Just because it will help players of
modest as well as expert ability both now and in the
future, I think that its inclusion should be
regarded as essential.
heard that new EU regulations would forbid the use
of lead in organ pipes. Will this affect us?
unfortunate that the DTI has interpreted the EU
directive in this way, even though the equivalent
foreign bodies have not!
Harrison launched a campaign, and before long we
were told that the inclusion of organ pipes was an
error. So fortunately all is well!
6. How are we raising the money?
be fun’ and it must also be linked with the raising
of awareness. This provides a wonderful opportunity
imparting basic knowledge on what a pipe organ is
and how it works
generating lively discussion about the future of the
church (see above)
At the beginning
of November 2007 we have
about £30000 in hand or promised. The is being raised by
Appeal, including a ‘Sponsor a Pipe’ scheme
Concerts and social events (also to raise awareness)
Charity concerts by professional and amateur
Dinner-dance in village hall (with live band –
Possibly, sponsored hymn singing (in churches, village greens,
pubs, with Stape Band, Benefice choir, other
musicians), with selection available from our 'menu'
(e.g. ‘Starters, a Taste of France, from England’s
boot sales in the summer of 2008. May not raise
much except awareness, but worth doing for the
Sale of organ pipes as souvenirs
Page on our website, with Gift Aid form to download
It has been
suggested that we enlist the help of a professional
fundraiser. On the Organ Working Group, we are most
fortunate to have Peter Bryan, Bursar of Ampleforth
College, and as a consultant, Jozef Mycielski,
Ampleforth’s Head of Fundraising.
for raising awareness
Display to be set up in the church
Articles in Signpost, website, local press
Good quality appeal leaflet
PCC, choir and others to visit workshops of
Principal Pipe Organs
Working parties to help dismantle existing organ
proposed tonal changes jeopardise our chance of
being awarded grants?
Frank Sutcliffe (the Diocesan Organ
Adviser) has already given his support to the
proposals. It is perfectly reasonable that an
instrument being moved from one building to another
should need tonal modification to ensure its fitness
for a new purpose and acoustic. Trusts such as the
Priestman, Foundation for Sport and the Arts and
Pilling are not concerned with historic conservation
and will support the scheme without tonal
restrictions. As you will not be seeking grants for
the historic conservation of the organ, then there
should not be any problems. You should certainly
not approach the Council for the Care of Churches
only concerned with conservation!
What is the
The scheme will
be zero-rated, because an alteration to a Listed
Building is required.
How much, if any, do we have to raise for ourselves
before we can apply for grants from charitable
grant-making trusts, etc?
At Cropton we
launched the appeal at the same time as applying for
grants. We began with two contributions of £1000
each, and this set the ball rolling. To the
grant-giving trusts, I could then give an estimate
of what we would raise: I said it would be half the
money, and invited their response on a
pound-for-pound basis. This proved to be exactly how
it worked out. The On Organ Fund,
however, require more than half the funds to have
been raised and a contract signed before they will
consider an application.
7. What is the procedure now, and what sort of
timescale should we be aiming for?
At Cropton we had all the funds within 11 months of
launching the appeal and applying for the grants.
But how to get started? A chicken and egg
situation: PCC members asked what we could expect
to get from grants, but we could not apply for
grants until we have a faculty in place. So a bit of
faith and determination was required to get started!
Once the faculty arrives, what information will Trusts require to decide
whether to award a grant?
Different Trusts may not necessarily need high
levels of background material. For example, I know
that for the Priestman Trust it is only necessary to
write a letter stating the reasons and aims in
reasonably concise form and enclosing a copy of the
estimate. One applicant I know wrote to them just
asking for an application form and received a cheque
back by return!
Your PCC summary is comprehensive and provides
exactly the sort of information needed for its
members to form a balanced judgement. I would think
that, for normal Trust applications, it would
suffice to say that the PCC had considered the
matter in great detail, weighed the alternative
options of (a, b, c) and, having taken professional
advice, concluded firmly that the preferable course
of action was (d). They will be more concerned that
you have undertaken the research thoroughly without
necessarily having to read all of the evidence
themselves! Ultimately, they will want to judge it
as a well thought out, reasoned and practical scheme
that will provide a lasting investment. In other
words, is their money safe and well spent supporting
Out of, say, £75 000 we have in hand £30 000 in hand
or promised (at the beginning of November) .
Initially, it is to be hoped that the present
cautious enthusiasm will gather momentum! We may
already have some idea of the level of local
response, but there are also those who attend the
concerts, and our musicians, which spreads the net
more widely. An appeal must be expected to raise
funds sooner rather than later. The Organ Builder writes:
Trusts often meet at six monthly intervals which
might mean waiting 6 to 9 months for a response to
funding requests. (I know that several of them meet
in February or March so early application would be a
good thing.) The Priestman (and Pilling?) Trusts
will promise any grants initially and send the
actual money when the project has been concluded.
Probably it is important that, when the trustees read the application,
they get a clear idea of what is the (musical) aim
and why this is so important to the parish. They
will want to know that, if the money is granted,
then this will form part of a long-term investment
rather than a short-term expedient so far as the
instrument is concerned. You have already given
very clear indications as to how the encouragement
of music in the parish will have positive
implications quite beside the benefit to the
community in general in such a rural area.
The Diocese will normally expect churches to have
raised the funds (or had them promised) in advance
of commencement. If totals are elusive, some
churches have been able to secure interest free
loans from well wishers so that a project can be
undertaken before inflation takes it out of reach.
Some have also found that well wishers then treat
their loans as gifts when repayment time comes
round. It is always worth sounding out the market!
Any increments will be inflationary at the review
dates mentioned in the estimate ‘Notes’. If the
general economic climate remained as at present, you
might allow for a 3½-4% increment annually.
about the timescale?
The work is scheduled to take around 3½ months. As
many churches have the same problem of not knowing
how long fund raising may take, our schedules have
to be kept flexible. In practical terms, we usually
‘pencil in’ a time in the schedule and review this
in the light of subsequent fund raising progress.
Presently, we know that 2007 is full and we have
contracts for 2008, but not necessarily with
commencement dates at present. We will gladly
pencil in a slot for you then if you would like and
there is no legal commitment on your part until such
time as you have the funds and a contract can be
8. So what will be the benefits of getting this
and inspiring music at church services, including
the accompaniment of choir and congregation.
organ for concerts.
education, support and encouragement of present and
resource for local musicians of all ages.
goal to aim for, bringing people together and
involving a larger number of people in the church.