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The Story of Aeolian Pipe Organ Op. 1458
Installed in the Music Room of Paul Morris in Exeter, Devon, UK.

Part Two:

 When I handed over the money to Jim Russell, on the 6th of December 2001 I officially became the new owner of Aeolian Pipe Organ Op. 1458. This was, of course the easiest part of the whole business!

Looking back 8 years ago, I am amazed at how well the whole operation went. After a minor “hiccough” of getting off the 'bus at the wrong city in New Hampshire, and staying a night in Manchester, a hire car was obtained, and Paul Collenette drove us to the address in New Hampton where Jim and the organ resided. I am amazed now too, at the matter-of -fact way in which I perused the organ, summed it all up and decided to purchase it. That it had been my intent to do just that for several weeks before was true enough. One can make all sorts of plans the other side of a crackly 'phone line, and with my newly acquired skills as an e mailer, it all seemed so clear and simple. With the advantage of hindsight, however, I can see that it could all have gone so horribly wrong. My lucky stars were shining bright that day and no mistake!

Jim had wanted to get rid of the organ for some time, he had had a deadline to move house, and so I guess I came along at the right time. He had expressed understandable surprise when, in a 'phone call, I had simply said that “ It's Monday today, right? Well, I can get 'plane tickets tomorrow, and be with you on Wednesday, and we can have the organ away by the week-end” That's what I said, and I meant it too! (Actually I already had the tickets, but I did not let on. One must never seem too keen in these sort of situations!)

When I think now about the sheer size of the instrument, the location of some of the heaviest bits, the number of parts that could be missing and the hard and skilled labour of loading it into a container, I think I must have been on another planet! I recall the curious dismay I felt after acquiring my previous Aeolian – Op.1431. For some time then, I paced up and down the outside of the van that it came in after everyone else had gone to bed, asking myself where I was going to put it, and why had I given myself such a large task. Richard Cole's comment of “just do it, Paul” (made when I was considering the purchase) seemed just a faint memory. However, this organ was a great success, and it well prepared me for what I found in New Hampton years later, in 2001. I seemed to “know” I would get it all in, somehow, and that it would all get back safely, and that I would be able to make it fill my house with music, and I was certainly unaware of any angels who were too afraid to tread the path I was already a long way down, on that unusually sunny day in early December at Jim Russell's New Hampshire home.

The console of 1458 as I first saw it.
The console of 1458
as I first saw it.
Surrounded by yellow wood.
Surrounded by yellow wood.

The night before, with that curious extra energy that a transatlantic flight beguiles one into thinking one has, and with Paul's help, I began marshalling the various components into an order that would make easier the transfer into the huge container ordered for the next day. Undaunted, we moved 9 and 10 rank chests from a sub floor area to the main room, stacked top, bottom and rack boards near the front door, and checked some of the pipes which had been beautifully stored in pipe trays when the organ was removed from the Pilgrim United Church, New Bedford, in 1987 All seemed in order. There was time to take some pictures, and to marvel at the Concertola (a ten roll player that was included in the deal, though sadly lacking a jack box) I sat quietly among all the yellow wood and tried to take stock of what I had done, then I gave a brief, imaginary recital on the dilapidated and intensely silent three manual console. No one but but me heard the diapasons ring out, and when I drew the solo division to manual one, and gave a fanfare on the 8” trumpet ( a tuba really) all a casual observer would have heard would just have been a series of soft clicks, as the key contacts that had last been used so many years before, gave themselves a sort of “sliding handshake”. Perhaps they were bidding the USA a “phosphorous-bronzy farewell” or perhaps I was just getting too sentimental. Paul and I were able to take full advantage of Jim's hospitality and after much refreshment, retired for the day.

Taking a break in the front yard.
Taking a break in
the front yard.
A pensive moment at the end of a long day
A pensive moment at
the end of a long day.

The following morning saw us up early and the task began. Nearly everything was transferred to Jim's yard, in preparation for the arrival of the container. They say ignorance is bliss, and I was certainly ignorant of the usual weather patterns at this time of the year in New Hampshire. The sun shone, and we had ideal conditions for the task. How we moved the console I do not know. If you have moved a partially disassembled console then you will know what I mean, and if you have not, it is better that you did not know! Somehow, it came out via French windows, onto a rickety wooden deck, down some steps that were likewise, only a bit more so, and along a bit of lawn to the drive. Horrible! The 30 or so pipe trays were also brutal. The sheer number, let alone the weight seemed to make the job go on for ages, but still I did not worry. “It's all going to be fine” I seemed to hear a voice saying; but even this voice wavered a bit when it was time to release the 16' pedal ranks from their garage prison of 14 years. CCC of the great pedal diapason was a struggle with two men! Just how was it going to be fitted into my house along with its fellows that got only slightly smaller as the chromatic scale was ascended? But I was only thinking “I'll bet they sound fantastic” It was to be another 7 years before I was to be proven right.

The container arrived, just a little late, and Paul, two lads (whose names I have forgotten) the father of one of them and myself began loading. Sadly Jim was not available for this part, so he missed out on all the fun. The trick was to fill the container so that everything was packed in tightly, and to use the space in such a way as not to create voids at the front that couldn't be filled subsequently, as more space became needed. Much of this technique I have learned from Richard Cole when he and Bernie Brown helped me with previous organ adventures. After about 7 hours, the container was really filled, all 40 feet of its length, and with nearly no room to spare. Halogen lights had been installed, since the last part of the job was done after dark. My last memories of that part are one of the lads (the taller, lankier one) saying “It's done” and, my goodness me, it certainly was!

Some of the carefully boxed pipes.
Some of the
carefully boxed pipes.
It's finished.
      It's finished.      

We left Jim Russel's a little earlier than planned. Jim was busy, and needed time to himself and suggested that we took a trip to a fellow organ enthusiast: Larry Leonard, who lived in nearby Laconia. This we did, and by more good fortune, ended the rest of our stay in the delightful home of one of the most hospitable gentlemen I have ever met. Larry could not do enough for us, and to say his house was full of the most fantastic items of mechanical music (and a few hundred clocks) would be an understatement. Tired though we both were after the day's organ packing, I found energy to play his superb Estey residence organ, and to take a little more video tape during what must have been one of the most exciting days of my life.

Larry was quite taken-aback when he learned that I had purchased Jim Russell's old organ, and considering we had only just all met up a few hours ago, we all got on famously then Larry dropped the bomb-shell. “Are you still buying?” he said and I wondered what this could mean. It turned out that he was the proud owner of Mrs. McK. Twombley-Vanderbilt's Duo-Art organ player, complete with jack box and quite a few rolls. If I had known the day before, it could have gone in the container, however, very much better late than never I gladly accepted, and another, albeit smaller consignment was made up and sent off.

More things to pack and ship.
More things to pack and ship.

The other surprise that the following day brought us was the weather. We woke up to several inches of snow, and instantly I realised just how lucky we had been the day before. A snowstorm then with everything out in the yard would have spelt disaster. Our last few days in New Hampshire were very mellow; listening to organ rolls, other items of mechanical music, playing Larry's superb Mason and Hamlin grand piano. We were also introduced to the pleasures of the Zinfandel grape, and the lovely refreshments that can be made from it. All too soon it was time to fly home.

Once back, the whole adventure took on a dream-like quality, and I was loathe to believe it had happened at all. One of the small things I had overlooked when I agreed to purchase what has turned out to be the largest Aeolian residence organ in Europe was where to put it. I was hoping some plan would form in my mind, but I consoled myself that I had a few weeks to come up with something. I very much doubted that the container would leave America until after the new year, and then it would be several weeks. How wrong I was. This was an unwatched kettle that had boiled, therefore, almost immediately. Whilst we were sipping our Zinfandel, the container had made good progress to the port of Montreal, in Quebec and had just made it onto a boat that was set to sail immediately. This vessel, the “Cast Power” had lost no time either and seems to have got to Liverpool in record time. Keen to tie up all loose ends before the end of the year, the industrious and efficient men of Liverpool wafted the container through, and even Her Majesty's Customs Officials hardly gave it a glance, with the result that my prized possession was almost waiting for me when we got home! If that is an exaggeration, it is not much of one. The organ left Jim Russell on the 9th and it arrived in Liverpool and was unloaded by 19th as I was advised by a cheery 'phone call. Considering I had arrived back on around the 15th and was battling with the usual jet-lag for about a week, it all seemed rather sudden. Now all I needed was a room in which to store it all. A BIG room, and fast!

© Paul Morris 2009


Part 3 Coming Soon......