Published: Wednesday, November 13, 2019
A craft that is handed down from master to pupil.
Organ Design does everything from designing and building instruments to maintaining, tuning and restoring all types and sizes of organ.
The company, a member of the National Churches Trust’s Professional Trades Directory, works throughout the UK and Norway. It also has a workshop near Alton, Hampshire.
Director Edward Dove learned his craft from Matthew Copley who founded Organ Design and Construction in 1974. Edward took over the business after Matthew’s retirement in 2012.
While he was growing up, Edward’s main interests were music and engineering. He sang in several cathedral choirs and attended Guildhall School of Music as a flautist. He wanted to make flutes so undertook a course in making and repairing musical instruments at Merton College. While there he worked on pipe organs for the first time and was hooked.
“I realised this was great,” he recalls. “It brought together the two things I was most most interested in. The organ is a very large woodwind instrument and what I what I was doing was basically engineering.”
He joined Organ Design in 1994 as an organ builder then spent many years as head voicer and tuner. Originally the company concentrated on building tracker organs. These instruments have a mechanical link between the keys and the pipes.
Edward says: “Tracker organs are amazing. The player is almost completely connected to the speech of the pipes. The way you touch the keys affect the way the pipes speak. With other organs the pipes are off and on. This is more like playing a violin.”
He adds that tracker organs have a very long life and do not need as much maintenance as other organs.
The largest tracker organ designed by the company was for St Mary’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. Just as challenging was one they built at the Church of St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, using glass for the front of the gallery and console. The brief from English Heritage was to design an instrument that would enable views of the church’s fine west window.
Hastings Unitarian Church
Another interesting commission was the complete restoration of organ made by the celebrated Swiss builder, John Snetzler. Dating from 1730, the instrument was at Hastings Unitarian Church in East Sussex.
More recently, Edward has restored a fine early Victorian organ at St Mary’s Church, Netherbury, Dorset, which was damaged by damp.
The company services pipe organs of all kinds for 150 clients. Edward says that the most satisfying part of the job is making a pipe organ that doesn't sound or work well back into a usable musical instrument. As well as restoring Victorian and older instruments, he can also make new ones and is a specialist in voicing.
Organ building and repair is a craft that is handed down from master to pupil. Edward has one apprentice and is hoping to employ another.
Profile written by Elena Curti.
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