Martin's urgent campaign to save historic Bryceson organ

PUBLISHED: 14:59 22 March 2007 | UPDATED: 14:29 07 September 2010

Martin Stacey

Martin Stacey

One of the locality s best known musicians, Martin Stacey, the organist at St Dominic s Priory, has set himself an urgent task to raise £5,500 to save and restore an historic organ made redundant by the parish of Old Cleeve in Somerset. Martin s attention

One of the locality's best known musicians, Martin Stacey, the organist at St Dominic's Priory, has set himself an urgent task to raise £5,500 to save and restore an historic organ made redundant by the parish of Old Cleeve in Somerset.

Martin's attention was drawn in 2005 to a decision that the parish council of Old Cleeve had decided to replace their historic Bryceson organ, built in 1860, with an electronic instrument.

He recalls: "I approached the vicar and church wardens who told me there were several factors which had influenced their decision. Not least, there were health and safety factors because the organ stood in front of the vestry door and made access difficult and it also posed a fire risk.

"There were other factors which concerned the condition of the instrument and the fact that its limitations prevented the performance of music in the parish developing in the way they wanted."

Martin visited Old Cleeve to see the instrument and found it to be in very good working order with a fine sound and beautiful appearance. He says: "I just felt it was necessary to try to save the organ and persuaded the vicar to postpone any action until I had consulted the Brethren of St Dominic's Priory and Deane Organ Builders, which had previously maintained the instrument, to find out whether a new home could be found for it and at not too great an expense."

They quoted £3,250 for the work, which Martin felt was not unreasonable.

Meanwhile, the Brethren of St Dominic's Priory agreed that the addition of a small organ in the Lady Chapel would benefit the church in many ways. And as Martin had funds available for the work to start, they were prepared to house the instrument.

However, when the builders began cleaning the instrument,they found asbestos in the old blower, the draw stop mechanism had been chewed by mice and the keyboard needed attention.

A new proposal detailing the work needing to be done was drawn up and submitted at the end of last year, with the final figure now standing at £5,550.

A delivery note, found when the builders were looking at the organ, is dated to the 1860s and show that the organ was sent by rail from the factory where it was built.

The works were then in Camden Town. So by returning it to St Dominic's, it will be located about a mile from where it was built.

Unfortunately, in the light of recent expenditure on the priory's roof and the 2007 budget having been set, the church cannot offer any money.

Martin says: "I have contacted all the major grants organisations in Britain and have the option to apply for funding in the normal way - but this is not a normal situation.

"The future of this instrument is under threat now and there is no time to wait another three to six months for awards to be made - even if an application was accepted. Organists everywhere keep saying how sad it is that organs are being replaced by electronic instruments and that the craftsmanship of historic builders will never be recreated.

"Here is a chance to step in and save one. So if anyone is able and willing to see this organ survive and be played for generations to come, I should be most grateful to hear from you."

Martin will discuss the current financial situation and answer any questions that you may have. You can e-mail him at chiplands@aol. com, phone on 07950 932 703 or write to him at St Dominic's Priory, Southampton Road, London, NW5 4LB.


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