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Messages - David Wyld

Well this is my showing of hands - I can see it!

As to the original question - no,  the organ isn't dead and neither is this or any other of the similar forum-platforms.  My own suggestion is that we lead VERY busy lives these days - lives  which would actually have horrified our grandparents in terms of the pace at which we must do everything: the concomitant is that some things only occupy our minds as and when they occur,  such as contributing to this forum when we see something that interests us or when someone has a particular question to ask.

I don't read anything more into it but I'm happy to be proved wrong.   My own excuse is that we're currently in the busiest time of the year - Christmas tunings,  which take a hell of a lot of organization,  to get through so many in such a short time.

Organ History / Re: Brindley & Foster book
October 03, 2017, 03:21:21 PM

Members might remember the above posting some time ago and wondered why nothing more has been heard - I have now received the following from Robert Matthew-Walker, which tells all!

Dear David:

Long time no contact!  You may remember our connections about three years ago concerning the publication of a book on the Brindley company organs by Bryan Hughes.

Through your excellent suggestion and your assistance through the Mander Forum we announced a Subscribers' Page and we obtained a goodly number of subscribers - but......!

I don't know if you are aware that in March 2015 we were the subject of a horrendous cyber attack on our computers and computerised records which obliterated all information stored on them: the corrected text of the book, all illustrations and original photographs - and the names and addresses of about 40 of the earlier subscribers at the time were lost.  All attempts at restoration of these files were not wholly successful, but it has proved possible to restore the original text and, by some additional miracles, the illustrations - but not the subscribers!

Through renewed appeals, we believe we have identified as many as humanly possible, given the circumstances, but as many of the original names and details of the first subscribers came through your kind offer to help publicise the book on the Mander Forum before the cyber attack, I am wondering if you would be so kind as to make a renewed appeal on our behalf, in order that those organ-lovers who readily responded to the original appeal and whose details are now lost in cyberspace might be able to let us have their details.

After very many trials and tribulations, the book is now in the final stages of preparation before printing: it will amount to around 370 pages, with very many illustrations published for the first time. It will be softback, of a size between A5 and A4.  The published price is £40, but for pre-publication subscribers it will be £25 including postage - a considerable bargain, as I hope you will agree.

Thanks for your kind co=operation.
Organ concerts / Truro Cathedral
September 28, 2017, 10:46:03 PM
Clive Ellison is the southwestern regional tuner for Henry Willis & Sons and tomorrow, Friday 29th September, will give a Recital on the wonderful Organ of Truro Cathedral.

Unfortunately I won't be able to attend due to other commitments much further north but if any members of this list will be in Truro I can recommend Clive's ability as a superb player.  The firm is incredibly proud to employ Clive Ellison as our representative in Cornwall & Devon.

If I can work out how to do it I shall post a picture of the performer taken at the console of 'The Little Giant ' this evening by his assistant, who is turning pages.

David Wyld
Restoring pipe organs / Norman & Beard Question
July 25, 2017, 03:24:56 PM
I wonder if any member of the forum is able to provide details of any organ built by the Norman & Beard firm, during any period of its existence,  in which an independent Tierce (17th) appears on the Great,  or which was supposed to have had one listed in the original specification but subsequently not included?

I ask as I have just seen advertising material announcing that the grand old 1909 N&B Ashton Hall organ of Lancaster Town Hall has had a 17th added to the Great (apparently on a direct-electric chest high above the other Great pipework and rather haughtily referred to as "a mounted 17th"!) and which was supposed to have been originally intended but subsequently omitted.

We (Henry Willis & Sons) have done at least 20 Harmonium restorations/refurbishments over the past 20 years since I became Managing Director:  these have included work on instruments by Mustel,  Alexandre, Schiedmayer, Christophe et Etienne as well as the more common 'American Organs' such as Spencer, R&D Apollo, Estey and my very own Aeolian Grand Player Organ.

There is no simple way of doing a patch repair if it is intended for it to be able to be forgotten about for a lifetime - the internal leathering of a feeder rib joint for example is actually just as important,  if not more so, than the outer bit which one sees.    It might be more correct to refer Tony's comments to the matter of the leather to be used and not necessarily pipe organ builders - the techniques are identical,  merely the materials which are different.   Most current-day 'restorers' started off themselves as amateur enthusiasts,  they are qualified by experience and not necessarily training.

If you have a year of your own time to spare and you don't mind being without the use of the instrument,  you can have a go yourself and save the money,  but if you want it turned around in a matter of a few days then pay an organbuilder or anyone else who can do this professionally the rate of about £25 per hour - much less than you will pay a washing machine serviceman and certainly a great deal less than servicing your car,  even though it requires a vastly greater amount of skill.

By the way,  don't be fooled by its looking like a reasonably straightforward job!

Members may be interested to know that last week saw the erection of he new casework for the relocated and Restored Father Willis organ in the Hooglandse Kerk in Leiden, Holland.

Details can be seen on the Willis website at  there is also a Twitter feed accessible from the front page of the website which provides up-to-date comment and I do know (though haven't seen it myself as I don't 'do' Facebook!) that the SCOL has a Facebook page.

The arrival of the case also provides the means of including the original Pedale Violone 16 and the new Great Double Open Diapason 16 ranks into the specification- the connection of the entirely new, all pneumatic actions to these will take place immediately after Easter.

David Wyld
Yes, a Willis Orch. Oboe sound is thinner -  there are others that are extremely pungent,  particularly the Hope-Jones variety.

The volume of a Solo example might tend to be louder simply due to the (possibly) higher pressure,  but the final result is entirely at the whim of the voicer I think.   An over-loud Orchestral Oboe might be a rather unmusical effect?

Quote from: David Pinnegar on February 20, 2017, 02:46:35 PM
I don't know the difference between a Clarabella and a Rohr Flute but wonder if your Great has a bit of duplication with stops which might possibly be enclosed and whether possibly one might think of Tierce or Larigot, or possibly a flute based 2ft?

It would be interesting to hear more expert opinion, David Wilde perhaps or PCND?

Best wishes

David P

Well I don't know about 'expert' but thanks for the suggestion David!

Looking back,  this thread seems initially to be John asking about the differences between a Swell Oboe and an Orchestral Oboe:   The main differences (at least in our own 'Willis' terms) is construction - the standard Swell Oboe or 'Hautboy' construction is usually a very small-scaled, reverse-conical tube (resonator) topped by a larger, faster gradient, reverse-conical 'Bell'.   The bell is either fully open, fully capped (soldered) or with a full cap left un-soldered to act as a regulating flap.

The invention of the Orchestral Oboe is credited to our own George Willis (brother of FHW) and given the higher pressure usually needed to make these I suspect that that credit is correct - George began the Willis voicing system for reeds which we still follow and without which no reeds can accurately be said (though it doesn't prevent them being said) to be 'Willis-style'!   The construction is a slightly faster gradient - though still relatively small-scaled tube,  without any 'bell';  A Willis Orch Oboe would be fully capped (soldered),  with a 1/3-diameter width slot cut  1/3-diameter down from the cap,  the resulting flap would be scrolled to prevent its being moved inadvertently after voicing and regulating,  and there would be a hole pierced opposite the slot.   

The shallots are also different:  the Swell Oboe would have a Willis 'C' set shallot, either 'filled in' or 'unfilled' dependent on the pressure to be used and the eventual tone required whereas the Orch Oboe would have a special form of shallot - very narrow with an extremely slow taper, open face and with a reverse-beaked end.   This gives a particularly thin - almost string-like - sound and a thick tongue is used in the voicing to bring back, as required, some of the roundness of the true Oboe tone.

Then David P asked about the difference(s) between a Clarabella (or Claribel?) and a Rohr Flute:   A true 'Clarabella' as invented by bishops is wooden,  large-scale,  with the mouth ALWAYS in the narrow side;  a Willis Clarabella (or Claribel flute) can be either wooden or metal- the metal ones are very much like (and often confused with) harmonic flutes,  though I have never seen one with the harmonic holes which some say they are supposed to have!   Because of the large scale there is a paucity of upper partials,  lending the sound a rather hooty, or smooth quality

Rohr flutes are Chimney flutes - Rohr in German means pipe, or tube etc..  The effect can either be achieved in the construction of the pipes themselves by soldering a full cap with a soldered-in chimney onto each pipe,  this of course completely removes the usual method of tuning and pipes so constructed then have 'spaniel ears' - extended, ductile metal ears,  which can be folded across the open mouth area of the pipe in order to tune by shading.  Personally I dislike this method of construction,  however old, traditional, authentic or whatever else it's supposed to be!  An alternative construction is for the chimney to be soldered into a moveable 'canister' which is made to fit over the open end of each pipe,  to provide a means of tuning by moving the canister up or down:  sealing this canister against leakage from the body of the pipe can be a problem,  making the canister either too tight or too slack,  the latter means that they are rarely in tune.

The Willis equivalent,  in tonal terms,  is the Lieblich Gedact - pierced long-handled stoppers provide the same tonal effect and also a perfect means of tuning, as the handle of the stopper is fitted into a deep-sectioned, solid wood or cork plug which fits the internal diameter of the pipe perfectly..

Regarding the specification listed by Richard - I haven't any comment or insight I think,  other than that being for a domestic situation, the inclusion of a Binns 'chorus' might be a little excessive - these pipes will probably be voiced within and inch of their lives!

If there is anything that is unclear from the above I'm happy to answer direct questions by the way.


I was in California for a time in 1980-81 and never heard the organ in tune except at 9pm!

A tuner's nightmare   :-\

The thread isn't 'cut'  it's 'rolled',  therefore there is no machine-thread tap available to do this,  it has to be done using a thread rolling machine.

If you take a vernier or micrometer to an existing wire end,  note that the plain section is actually thinner than where the thread is thrown up: the action of rolling pushes out the metal to raise the thread - therefore a 16-guage wire (standard wire gauge)  has a threaded part which is nearer to 15 or 14 gauge,  dependent on the pressure which is exerted by the machine.

Organ Builders / Re: Willis History
December 10, 2015, 06:28:40 PM
Quote from: Bryan Moseley on December 10, 2015, 01:53:08 PM
A few years ago I found a set of Rotundas, missing only the first three issues.  They were all heavily annotated, but tucked inside two early issues were some sheets of manuscript.  They were presumably written by a tuner who had worked for Willis and R&D and as the writer refers to the late Arthur Seare, post-date his death in 1970.  Articles on the organs in question were in the journals.  Perhaps the writer was happier at R&D than at Willis - another HW III that migrated to R&D quite early in its life was his "Model Organ" at St Thomas a Becket, Wandsworth.

Now that I think about this a little more,  I wonder what the motive might be in simply posting something like this without reference to the firm - considering that the basis of the material is the deluded opinion of a drunkard following his expulsion from the object of his opinion?  Libellous at the time? Probably.  Why do organ enthusiasts believe that they can just pretend that the firms which they regularly rubbish in their internet blathering don't exist (or mind).  In fact I wonder if Mr. Moseley would even have considered posting this if it had referred to, say, Harrison & Harrison or Mander?

I remind you Mr. Mosley that Henry Willis & Sons is still very much alive and potentially kicking!

Organ Builders / Re: Willis History
December 10, 2015, 05:09:53 PM
W.J.  was William J. Comley,  with whom I was in contact in about 2001 (he was by then in his 90s),  as he wanted us to have his complete set of The Rotunda,  which is here in the Library.  He waxed lyrical about his 'friendship' with HW3 - I have had the files out following this last post and am somewhat stunned by the duplicity!

Comley played each side off against the other(s)- he would be as nice as pie to the tuners and then complain about them to Head Office but also having said to the tuners how poorly he was being treated by Mr.. Willis(3).  HW3 bent over backwards for Comley who always took the free service but then moaned about  it.   There are other, multiple, instances in the files which make very interesting reading for anyone doing any research.

The handwriting of the written out notes was instantly recognisable - Ivor Lane,  sacked from Henry Willis & Sons for drunkenness and outright incompetence:  when I was first involved at the Firm, there were still employees here who recoiled at his name, especially those having 'worked' with him away on site.  Mr. Willis once called the local pub next to a place where Lane was supposed to be cleaning an organ and asked the Landlord to put him on to the man in the Bar by the name of Lane!    Interestingly ALL of his comments are negative towards Willis and suddenly R&D are the  miracle firm who sorted everything out.  slightly pathetic really.

As to the Wandsworth organ (St. Thomas):  built in 1928,  with the firm until the West window of the church was blown in in the war (1941 or 44?) and the War Damage Reparations money insufficient to meet the Willis estimates for restoration so in 1950 they went with the local Kingsgate Davidson firm,  who divided the organ either side of the window.  R&D didn't get involved until 1994/5 when they carried out a disastrous "restoration" and I was called in in 1998 to inspect it and report - an interesting letter in the file from R&D to me,  which tells a great deal.   so the assertion that this organ "migrated to R&D quite early in its life" is not at all accurate and possibly falling into the same vein as Lane's slant-eyed view of the situation in the notes above?

These files are available for anyone interested to see.   

David Wyld

Miscellaneous & Suggestions / Re: Anglesey
August 10, 2015, 02:36:37 PM
Quote from: revtonynewnham on August 07, 2015, 09:58:06 AM
Beaumaris PC was open when we were there last year (Oct).  Organ in West Gallery - and looking rather tired externally, despite a fairly recent rebuild.

This organ hasn't been 'rebuilt', we (Henry Willis & Sons) cleaned the organ at St. Mary & St. Nicholas just ten years ago:  there was some conservation work carried out on some of the (very old) pipework and the prospect pipes repaired - several feet were badly collapsing and the metal is VERY soft,  from 1807.  The pedal pneumatic actions were all re-tubed in lead.

Tony is quite right when he says that the front is looking a little 'tired' - we've been somewhat surprised by the rate at which the tarnish has built up on the surface finish of the front, which is caused by the heavily salt-laden atmosphere amply circulated by the regular high winds.  The technical term,  I believe,  is a Marine Aerosol!   

In more recent times there has been a more enthusiastic heating system installed in the church,, but at the time we were working there the walls were running with water - one of the dampest (if such a word exists) places I've ever been in.

Just switch to playing the Cinema/Theatre organ - they only ever used the left foot!
Organs wanted / Re: Church Organ Wanted...
February 18, 2015, 04:21:56 PM
Quote from: Nazard on February 16, 2015, 01:04:36 PM

If you are aware of an instrument you feel may be suitable or could keep your eyes open and let me know, I'd be very grateful.



Hello Tom,

If you can contact me directly we might be able to help!


David Wyld
Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.
Quote from: pcnd5584 on February 04, 2015, 06:14:25 PM

This gives 32ft. tone down to G (in the lowest octave), then it is 'quinted' in fourths below the fundamental, for the lowest seven notes. Even in this dry acoustic (for what is not a particularly large church), this is one of the most effective 32ft. stops I have ever met.[/font]

This was the standard HWIII treatment, which Roger Yates presumably picked up from him.

Organ History / Re: Brindley & Foster book
November 06, 2014, 09:51:47 AM
A further note on this:

This morning it has been confirmed that a "Subscribers List" will be included in the tome - as it was with Hopkins & Rimbault and the Hill casework books.  These subscribers lists, over a century on, make exceptionally interesting reading, even as a social record of the type of people interested at that time

An opportunity to have ones name recorded for posterity, for £25!

I do hope that the take-up for this is sufficient to ensure that the same publisher will consider further organ-related books in the future - all too often the enormous amount of work required is rewarded by a pathetically-low sales record which does not encourage publishers to put their funds into such enterprises.

David Wyld
Henry Willis & Sons Ltd.

Organ History / Brindley & Foster book
November 05, 2014, 03:58:40 PM
The Editor of 'The Organ' and 'Musical Opinion' has drawn to my attention a forthcoming book on the history of the Brindley firm, from 1854 - 1939 by Bryan Hughes (author of 'The Schulze Dynasty): the manuscript is edited and awaiting publication for which advance subscriptions are being sought to assist with the considerable costs of publication.

The finished book will amount to some 200 pages, containing over 150 photographs and will be available to subscribers at the cost of £25 per copy.

Those interested should contact:

Robert Matthew-Walker,
1, Exford Road,
London SE12  9HD

Tel:  0208 857 1582       email:

I have subscribed to four copies and hope that others might also see this as an interesting addition to their libraries!

David Wyld

I would take a very slight view of the attribution of the pipework - nothing in the files regarding this and it looks like it was an original Ainscough job, so highly unlikely anyway.  Ainscough was a good firm in its own right, didn't need to use old FHW stuff to justify its organs!

David Wyld
Organ Builders / Re: Willis open day
September 24, 2014, 03:26:00 PM
I've been asked to publicise the fact that there is ample free parking around the Works (especially as it is on a Saturday) and that Lime Street Station is approximately 7-10 minutes away (walking time).