What about the Roberts Organ at Drummoyne is that not a suitable option?
The answer takes a bit of time so please bear with me.
The Roberts Organ is 13 ranks the Rendall is 16. So the Roberts would have to be expanded upon, which Jewkes himself acknowledges. The proposed HNB is 31 ranks. I am not sure if you are aware the HNB Organ which is being supplied by SIOC in its original form was 23, and so it has been expanded 8 ranks only. Therefore the Roberts organ would need significant additions to allow it to do what we want it to do as expanded upon by Brett and Nicola at the Music Consultation. There is no guarantee that we will be able to locate the necessary pipes either in the time frame needed, or ever. However, and it is a big however, there are other issues that make the Roberts much less attractive, and it goes to the technicalities of putting an instrument into the church.
The first issue is that the church is acoustically poor. The technical term is dry. There is no reverb in the church. It means that sound “dies” rapidly in the church. This is due to soft timbers, the way the timbers are shaped, soft furnishings, and surprisingly having people in the church as we absorb sound. Incidentally this is one of the reasons for raising the organ up higher into the church. This acoustic issue was acknowledged by Rendall and Leggo when they did the original build. The prevailing wisdom of the day was to have high pitched pipes and high pressure to try to penetrate the building. This is what they did. The only problem was it created a very shrill instrument. You can hear that today. If you listen to the little Hill organ it has a much more resonant sound, timbre, in the sound than the Rendall despite it being so small. I actually prefer it to the Rendall, because to me it sounds nicer. As with all things knowledge advances and we now know that the better way to get penetration into church like ours is through a low pitch organ on high wind pressure. So the SIOC HNB planned organ is low pitch and high wind pressure, 6.5 inches of pressure. The Roberts has 4 inches of wind pressure. This is due to the Roberts organ being in a much better acoustic environment than ours. Now the simple answer might be to up the wind pressure. You might if you were going from 1-3, but not 4-6.5. It over blows the pipes and they go off pitch, you need to match the pipes to the wind pressure, as well as the building.
The second issue, is that because the Roberts is so small there are more pipes to source to bring it up to what we want it to do. The SIOC only needed another 8, the Roberts would need, even if you didn’t go to the 31, at least another ten, probably a dozen to be safe. It has taken John Hargreaves about two years to find all the pipes for this organ, because it is not just a matter of locating a specific pipe type, it has to be in sympathy with the rest of the instrument. Hargreaves has also taken great care to find pipes that are of the same time frame as the original, because its origins are contemporaneous with the original Rendall time frame, of the late 1920’s.
This then brings us to the third issue. Cost. There is a spurious amount of 400K floating around about the Roberts to install in the church. I would say two things. First it is effectively un-costed. I have been given the rounds of the kitchen by many in this parish for not being clear on the cost of the organ, and now we are considering an un-costed organ simply on verbal say so where there has been no sitting down and properly analyzing the job, and preparing a proper quote? I am loathe to do anything with this project without a fully costed fixed price quote and contract. So I hold of no account this stated 400K as having any credibility. I simply do not believe it. If I see it in a fixed price quote like Hargreaves has done, then I will believe it. Until then I don’t. Second, other organ builders have been invited to provide a quote on the organ replacement and they have declined to do so.
The Fourth issue with the Roberts, is, I guess, not so much an issue, but a comment. The Roberts is not a bad instrument. However, if we were to put it in to our church it is my opinion we will be doing what happened in the 1920’s all over again. We will also be getting a “hymn” organ rather than an organ that can do all the things we talked about and endorsed at the Music Consultation Day. Cliff sees it as a “fall back” option. It would take a great calamity to consider such an instrument, and if we did, we would, as I said, effectively have a modern Rendall with multiple issues that will need to be resolved in the future. I say lets fix everything now and just get on with it.
Finally, just on some house keeping issues with the Roberts the key action needs replacing to have a remote console as we do now, this means the console is currently mated to the organ as ours was before the remote console was put in, there are no presets which is helpful when you have 4+ organists using the console each week, and the organ console is not standard so you either get a new console, very expensive, or you modify it, still very expensive.