Author Archives: Goetze and Gwynn

  • Vauxhall case is going up…

    The case is going up in the workshop ready for starting to fit the components….

  • And unit 2…

    Joe and Chris……2m apart……

  • Back to work 1st June!

    Back to work…2m apart…Edward and Nick…..2 per workshop….

  • Bishop organ case

    The organ’s case was designed by James Savage, the architect of the church.  Like the rest of the church, it is monumental but quite plain. 

  • Andrew Roberts and Dominic Gwynn blowing the Bermondsey organ in the traditional manner

    Our sympathies go to Jennifer’s partner Andrew Roberts.  Andrew is a most distinguished man, but for the purposes of the recording we were there to help.  He will remember this occasion, when the new electric blower cut out and we had to resort to authentic muscle power, as one of the more surreal in his life.  It was the hottest day of 2003, and there we were, in the blowing chamber next to the organ, me pumping the bellows in the organ, Andrew pumping the pedal bellows, and Jennifer playing full organ for what seemed a very long time.  The CD booklet says that we pumped for most of the pieces, but it was actually only for one.

  • 1829 J.C.Bishop organ at St James Bermondsey

    The organ was forward-looking in many ways – the first English pedal organ with a choice of stops, a full range of manual and pedal couplers, combination pedals, a Swell organ down to 8ft G, etc.  It is most well-known for the finger pedalboard, for English organists unused to using their feet.  The pedalboard is also about a fourth towards the treble than modern players would be used to.  It is an amazing survival, and deserves to be better known.  The church has an amazing acoustic, and retains its character.

  • Jennifer Bate playing Samuel Wesley at St James Bermondsey

    I have meaning to add our tribute to the genius of Jennifer Bate, who died at the end of March.  We will always be enormously grateful to her enthusiasm for the 1829 Bishop organ at St James, with every reason; it is in my opinion one of the great European organs.  She was a passionate advocate of the music of Samuel Wesley, and found in Bishop’s organ the ideal vehicle for it, the largest and most up-to-date organ of Wesley’s time.  Just after we finished restoring the organ in 2002, Jennifer spent many hours mastering the unusual layout and the unusual demands of the organ, and produced a wonderful recording. 

  • Renatus Harris organ at St Paulinus Llangorse

    Another Harris organ survives at St Paulinus Llangors in Powys, from near the end of his life, when Renatus was living in the parish of St John, in Bristol.  It was built in 1720 for St John’s Cardiff, and removed when the Father Willis organ was installed in 1885.  It was put in store and moved to Llangors in 1903.  Its mixture and reeds do not survive, but the windchest and most of the rest of the pipework does, relatively unaltered.  The case is mostly original but has been mutilated, from the period when it faced into the chancel.   It has been remarkably little altered, but much bashed about, and could be restored to its 1720 condition.

  • St Botolph Aldgate history of the 1704 Renatus Harris organ

    Considering the tendency of the English to rebuild or replace their organs, almost from the moment they were first built, we are fortunate to have two organs from the times of Bernard Smith and Renatus Harris, in something like original condition.  It seems extraordinary that so little of Bernard Smith’s work has survived – only Adlington Hall gives a good idea of the vigorous sound of his organs.  Of Renatus Harris and his workshop there is the Aldgate organ, from which most of the pipework survives, including reeds and mixture, on the original wind chests.  The sound is not quite as it was originally, but is pretty close, as close, perhaps as a 300 year old organ could get.  The booklet is available from the church (currently closed of course) or from G&G, who are starting to open the workshop again from yesterday.

  • Tim Roberts plays Blow at St Botolph Aldgate

    I have been listening to Joseph Payne playing John Blow.  His playing, it would be fair to say, occasionally catches fire, but is mostly worthy.  So I have gone back to one of my favourite recordings, made by that wonderful keyboard player Timothy Roberts, of music by John Blow and his pupils and successors.  The recording also has the great advantages of providing some context to the organ music, with congregational and solo psalms (with Julia Gooding, Clara Sanabras and Richard Savage), as well as the oldest surviving English church organ, which happens to be a persuasive and beguiling musical instrument.  The recording should be available from the recording company  http://www.sfzmusic.co.uk/sfzartists-timot.html

  • The G&G organ for Magdalene Cambridge, 20 years old

    The organ was brand new, the brain-child of Dr Richard Luckett, who was then Fellow and Pepys Librarian.  The organ is based on the organs of Bernard Smith (1630-1703) who was German, but spent a decade making organs in Holland, including the 1657 organ in Edam, and was from 1667 resident in London and on his way to gaining a special place in England’s organ building history.  Very little of his work remains, but there are large collections of little altered pipes at Great St Mary’s in Cambridge 1698, and Finedon in Northamptonshire 1704.  Both of these are for different reasons underwhelming.  Even the organ at Edam was made a bit more polite 70 years after it was finished.  For an impression of how a Smith organ might have sounded and how it felt to a player like John Blow, you need to go to Adlington Hall, made by Smith’s workshop, or somebody who had worked in it, probably in 1693.  You can find a stop list and hear Anne Page playing it on https://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=N04410#AudioSection

  • Joseph Payne playing John Blow at Magdalene College Cambridge

    About six months after we finished the new organ at Magdalene College Cambridge, Joseph Payne, an eminent English-American keyboard player, recorded all the keyboard works of John Blow, on organ and harpsichord.  They were recorded and produced by his wife Phoebe, and I spent a day with them at Magdalene.  We were sent a pre-production test recording but then heard nothing.  I heard Joseph had died in 2008.  I discovered that a CD had indeed been produced (by https://cantate-musicaphon.de/), and I have been listening to it with excitement, not just that 2 CDs of Blow voluntaries hold the attention, but at the quality of the organ, which sounds historic, and authentic.  I am sorry that Joseph is not around to thank and complement, not just for his playing but also for choosing our organ.

  • The Swan Singers in 2018

    Here we are in 2018.  It impressed me how much further spring has got this year than it had in 2018.  On May 3rd I heard my first swifts in Wells (we have swifts rather than swallows), though the first recorded in Bristol were on April 23rd.   

  • May Day with the Swan Singers on the Mendips

    For the last few years Dominic’s wife Antonia’s chamber choir, the Swan Singers, have sung madrigals on May morning, up on the Mendips at Ebbor Gorge.  Swans are important in Wells, see https://bishopspalace.org.uk/whats-on/swan-news/ including a link to the swan cam.  When I can I join them (the Swan Singers).  This year we had to do it on zoom and Antonia made a film so that we could sing our favourite madrigals (including Orlando Gibbons The Silver Swan of course) in our favourite places.

  • 1879 Gray & Davison console at St Anne’s Worksop

    I also feel affectionate about the organ at St Anne’s, not least because it is our parish church.   Edward is organist there.  Nick and Emma got married there.  It has moved twice, once from the congregational chapel in Clapham, south London, to Buckley in NE Wales, and then in 1999 to St Anne’s.  The organ started life in 1852, but was completely rebuilt in 1879.  It has been remarkably little altered since then, just a few minor alterations by Whiteley of Chester in 1947 and by G&G in 1999.  The organ exactly fitted its space in Paley & Austin’s lovely 1913 church, but we had to alter the layout of the Pedal organ, and it now stands behind P&A’s organ front, into which the console fitted exactly.  The front pipes are G&D’s. The 1879 organ has G&D’s range of attractive colours, but you can see why they went out of fashion at the end of the 19th century – full organ is feeble, and would make little sense without the reeds. 

  • The Gray brothers at St Patrick RC Soho Square

    If you prefer the organs of the 18th century to those of the Imperial Age, then Gray & Davison will be your favourite major Victorian organ builder.  We have been lucky enough to restore some of their earliest organs (St Patrick Soho Square and St Swithun Worcester, chamber organs at Dingestow Court, St James Lower Clapton, Burghley House, a barrel organ for Bob Pennells).  And we have restored rebuilds at St Mary Rotherhithe and the Wynnstay organ at Cardiff Museum, and the organ at St Anne’s Worksop.  Until I wrote this list I didn’t realise how many we had worked on.  The organ at Soho Square has the distinction of having some of the first if not the first sub-octave pedal pipes, though I love it for other reasons – it has a lovely vigorous sound which fills its amazingly reverberant church.

  • New history of Gray & Davison by Nicholas Thistlethwaite

    I have just read this new book about the Gray family’s organs and the Victorian firm of Gray & Davison that effectively took over from them after 1851.  The central character in the book is Frederick Davison, partly because we now know so much more about him.  For a general reader (including me) the evocation of the times in which the firm flourished is most attractive, and Nicholas writers so well that one forgets what a large book it is and how much source material has been handled.  It is published by the academic publish Boydell and Brewer https://boydellandbrewer.com/organ-building-in-georgian-and-victorian-england.html

    Not cheap, but for organ historians it will be a classic.

  • The Remy Family

    I sent the picture of the Sharp family to Derek Adlam, who sent me this picture in return, equally as wonderful, by Januarius Zick.  How many painters have names beginning with Z?  The Remy family were ironmasters in Bendorf in the Rheinpfalz, wealthy and musical.  The painting is in the Nürnberg Germanisches Museum.  It is the clavichord which interests Derek.

  • Sharp family

    I have always loved this picture of the musical Sharp family, with their musical instruments on a family boat on the River Thames, painted by Johan Josef Zoffany in about 1780.  Their letters are an important source of information and colour about Georgian music-making.  Granville was also one of the main figures in the anti-slavery campaigns.  His brother William acquired a three stop chamber organ in 1756 by “Mess:rs Jordan, Byfield & Bridge”, see his extraordinary punning description of it in Brian Crosby Private Concerts on Land and Water: The Musical Activities of the Sharp family, c.1750-c.1790 (Royal Musical Association Research Chronicle, No. 34, 2001).

  • Riepp family

    This picture is in Ottobeuren, near where Riepp was born, and where he built one of his largest organs and certainly the finest surviving.  I have a fondness for these slightly naïve conversation pieces.  Each figure seems to have been painted separately and positioned rather awkwardly in the painting, which may indeed have been the case. 

  • Klaus Josef Riepp

    G&G are all on furlough, since we cannot work in the workshop and cannot work from home.  We hope it won’t be long before small manufacturing businesses are allowed to start work again, but in the meantime I have been gathering illustrations, finishing articles and other pieces of work, and getting in touch with people who probably haven’t heard from me for years.  I have been looking for a half-remembered illustration of an 18th century organ builder with proportional dividers and eventually found the man I have been looking for.  Despite his serious look Riepp seems to have been a delightful man, a wine-producer as well as an organ builder.  I am not sure where this picture is to be found, perhaps in the Cathedral museum at Dijon where he lived. 

  • ‘Newark Siege’ from ‘A Consort’s Monument’

    On Saturday (April 25th) Record Review on BBC Radio 3 played a recording of John Jenkins’s wonderful descriptive piece commemorating the siege of Newark in 1646.  It can be heard on https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000hmrp 18mins and 30 seconds into the programme.  I hope you are then inspired to buy the recording from Ricercar-Outhere https://outhere-music.com/en/albums/a-consort-s-monument-ric413  Newark is only 40 minutes from our workshop.  You can still see the castle by the River Trent, and the fortifications put up to defend the town.  The piece holds a special place in my affections, because an early recording with our Opus 1 (see the picture two blogs ago) included it in a recording of Jenkins’s music, with Trevor Jones and the Consort of Musick viols in 1984.

  • Recording ‘A Consort’s Monument’ with viol consort L’Achéron

    In October Antonia and I spent a day with the viol consort L’Achéron, during their recording of English viol music in the beautiful little church of Centeilles near Siran in the Minervois (Fr).  You can sample some of the significance and the flavour of the recording here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JRkgXGJ1YBI  or on their website https://www.lacheron.com/single-post/2020/02/24/A-Consorts-Monument—MAKING-OF Apart from the wonderful playing of these fine young musicians, the performances are notable for the instruments.  The viols were made according to the proportions given by Thomas Mace, all to the same model, by Arnaud Giral, luthier in Bristol.  The two keyboard instruments were brought and tuned by Francois Ryelandt, who has had the vision to commission these instruments with their very particular qualities and contribution to this repertoire.  The copy of the Mar virginals with their sensational decoration commemorating Thomas Dallam’s visit to the Sultan in Constantinople in 1599-1600 was made by Jean-Francois Brun.  And we made the consort organ, after the 1630ish organs surviving at Smithfield in Virginia (USA) and Staunton Harold in Leicestershire (UK).

  • Opus 1

    The first organ was finished as we celebrated Christmas in 1980, and my elder daughter Pip was born on Boxing Day.  Its design shows some naivety, with all our ideas packed into a small organ, but on those occasions when we have re-visited it over the years, I have been impressed.  It was commissioned by the viol-player, the late Trevor Jones, for use with the Consort of Musicke.  One of my high points with it was a concert in the Wigmore Hall in December 1982, which the BBC transmitted live, as a snowstorm prevented them from leaving London.  Martin and I took turns lifting the bellows by hand, in the middle of the stage, to tremendous applause.  It now belongs to David Lawson, Director of Music at Monmouth School.

  • Goetze and Gwynn forty years on

    I (Dominic) have always picked April 1st as the birthday of the firm, a thoroughly appropriate day.  It is actually about halfway between the date in 1980 when Martin and I started our first project, and the date when both of us started full time.  I think we have achieved a lot since then, but we will not celebrate until these eery and difficult times are over, or at least over the worst. 

    At least G&G will be back in business after the gap or gaps in production.  Our thoughts go out to all the self-employed organ builders and tuners, to self-employed organists and other musicians, especially our friends in the Early Music world, and around Europe and the world, and self-employed craftsmen everywhere.  Their sitework, concerts, shows, gallery outlets, etc. etc. have been closed overnight.  I trust that they will be able to receive assistance from the government (and governments worldwide), but I can imagine that not all of them will, and that there will be difficult times ahead.  Much of their work is badly paid, especially when you think of the wonderful skills involved, and some at least will not have the funds to keep them going. 

    In the meantime it is heart-warming to witness people’s ingenuity and skill displayed online…  One of my favourites is still the Rotterdam Philharmonic playing Schiller’s and Beethoven’s great hymn to human solidarity https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eXT60rbBVk

  • Experiment with corroded Trumpet block

    The bottom octave blocks from the trumpet in the 1870 Lewis organ at St Peter’s Vauxhall had white powder, a common problem. Joe has been trying to reverse the process by electrolysis.