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30th August - 1st September (University of Worcester)

This year’s Diocesan Organ Advisers Conference took place between Tuesday, 30th August and Thursday, 1st September in Worcester. Over half the dioceses send their advisers and there were close to 40 delegates in total.

Tuesday afternoon opened after lunch with a welcome from Rt Revd Dr John Inge (Bishop of Worcester) and the Ven Robert Jones (Archdeacon of Worcester). Bishop John in the lead bishop for Cathedrals and Church Buildings. The delegates were also joined by Canon Robert (Bob) Cooper, new Chair of the Church Buildings Council’s organs committee.

The welcome was followed by an overview of some of the organ builders working in the Diocese of Worcester and some exampe of projects, from the point of view of Andrew Fletcher as Organs Adviser for the diocese (and as outgoing Chair of the Organs Conference).

From ChurchCare, Dr David Knight reported on national initiatives including the DCMS review of church sustainability and an update on the Faculty Jurisdiction Rules. He introduced ideas to address training and succession-planning for advisers, to ensure continued quality of advice. Lisa McIntyre gave an overview of grants awarded by ChurchCare and the HLF for organ conservation projects over the last year. She highlighted the importance of good quality reports and supporting documentation to improve chances of grant aid. She finished with a reminder of processes for referring proposals to the Church Buildings Council. The ChurchCare presentation can be downloaded: here.

Alan Thurlow reported on BIOS’s activities as it approaches its 40th anniversary. He provided an update on the National Pipe Organ Register and gave advance notice of the new Historic Organs at Risk Register, to be launched in Cambridge the following week. This will highlight organs with historic organ certificates that are considered to be at risk due to condition or other factors, and will be administered by Jonathan Goodchild, former member of staff at ChurchCare. The public will be able to nominate organs for inclusion on the Register and for spot listing: both nomination forms and details of assessment criteria are now available on the BIOS website.

Following an informal dinner, delegates gathered again in the conference room to hear Dr Jim Berrow give a thorough and moving account of the life of Arthur Troyte Griffith, close friend of Elgar and subject of one of his Enigmas.

Wednesday saw a packed programme of visits to churches around the diocese, with a Eucharist service in the church of the former St Michael’s College, Tenbury offering a calming interlude prior to lunch. A full history of each organ on the tour can be found in the publicly available programme booklet, downloadable: here. Guests at the formal dinner that evening were Andrew Moyes of Nicholson Organs and Anthony Hall of Clevedon Organs, with Andrew providing amusing and interesting reminiscences of his life as an organ enthusiast and builder.

Thursday saw a return to the conference room, commencing with the AGM, where Richard Godfrey, Diocesan Adviser for Salisbury, was voted in as the new Chair. Paul Hale (Southwell & Nottingham, Lincoln) and Richard Hird (Durham) retained their positions as Secretary and Treasurer respectively.

The AGM was followed with talks about two rather different approaches to organ building. Firstly, Andrew Moyes talked about developments in organ pallets over time, explaining the technical advantages of modern pallet dimensions, over historic examples. He outlined how historic organs might be modified in a conservation-minded way to reduce heaviness of touch. This was followed by a presentation from Anthony Hall and colleagues about modifying historic organs to incorporate electronic control systems and wireless control, expanding on what delegates had seen at Inkberrow and West Malvern churches the previous day.

The conference ended with a round table discussion of topics which had emerged over the course of the three days, including:

  • ideas around continued training and development for existing advisers;
  • ideas around succession planning and recruitment of new advisers;
  • the merits or otherwise on insisting on accreditation of organ builders;
  • comparisons of different DACs in respect of organ casework referrals;
  • comparisons of organ advisers’ input on faculty cases not related directly to organs;
  • how to widen knowledge of the value of DAC and DAC advisers amongst parishes;
  • trends in heating technology and interaction of organ advisers with heating advisers.

Next year’s conference will be hosted by the Diocese of Ely and will take place from 29th to 31st August, with Madingley Hall serving as the main venue.