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MMD > Archives > September 2001 > 2001.09.26 > 07Prev  Next

Fair Organ Restoration Ethics
By Craig Brougher

Just as we hear "The Rest of the Story" by Paul Harvey from time to
time, let me quickly weigh in on this "restoration ethic" concern,
since there is more to this story.

I fully agree with everybody that substituting new pipes for old will
change the sound of an organ.  As a matter of fact, two Wurlitzer 153s
or two 165s are themselves distinctive enough to easily tell them
apart, even with their original pipes intact.  Each band organ has a
distinctive personality that way, as do all live musical instruments.

But while we are sorry to see such wholesale removal of parts and
pipes, the stripping of facades, etc., we also have to realize that the
restorer was working at the behest of the owner in some cases, and the
owner asked for his options -- especially when he brings the instrument
to the restorer in cardboard boxes, having been found under an old
farmhouse exterior porch or something.  This has happened to me, too.

Many of these instruments found cannot be restored without reconstructive
surgery.  Others can still use most of their original pipes, but at a
cost of twice or more what a rank of new pipes would be.  Without that
option, many owners would not want to go to the extra expense to keep
it more original.

When many ranks of pipes are rotted, broken, with leaves popped off,
toes gone, blocks split, etc., and you tell a customer, "I can fix
these two solo ranks for X amount of money, or I can replace them with
new pipework for Y amount," then no one can complain -- only bemoan,
because that instrument will never again be the same in either case.
The culprit isn't the restorer, but the dirt floor shed.  So the
question often may not be that of "ethics."  It could more likely be
that of "options."

I look at it this way: each instrument, original or not, had it's
own sound.  When you have to individually make 75-100 parts for some
destroyed solo pipes and the special toes, etc., for half or more, that
is twice to three times as much work as it would cost to build or buy
a new rank.  We'll do it either way usually, but it's up to the owner
ultimately which way to go.

And there is no possible way to just look at an unrestored instrument
standing there and tell someone it will cost "so much" for a full
restoration.  You have to tell them, "Trust me."  But you could very
likely give them a firm price eventually, once he tells you to replace
all ranks that required more repair than a new rank would cost.  And
that's the rest of the story.

Often it wasn't ethics at all, but the side of the story you were told.
You never hear the other side.

Craig Brougher

(Message sent Wed 26 Sep 2001, 13:38:07 GMT, from time zone GMT-0700.)

Key Words in Subject:  Ethics, Fair, Organ, Restoration

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