Everyone at Shires was devastated to learn of the fire in June that destroyed the factory of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders in Iowa, USA.
We are delighted, however, that the company, founded in 1974 by Lynn Dobson, is continuing in business in a workshop in Lake City. With typical resilience, it is focusing on service and restoration while making plans for a new headquarters.
It has been a privilege to supply pipes to Dobson in the past few years, including ranks for its 99th organ for Saint James’ Church in Sydney, Australia, which was under construction in Iowa.
Workers were about 3,000 hours into the estimated 17,000-hour project when everything was lost to the fire, including our string stops. So we were greatly touched when the company reordered them from us for the Sydney organ.
We salute the courage and optimism of this great firm and offer John Panning and his team our best wishes for the future.
As the New York Times remarked: 'Dobson Pipe Organ Builders may have lost its building, its tools and some of its archives, but its staff remains, steeped in the kind of technical expertise that is passed from one artisan to the next.'
Shires is delighted and proud to have been invited to work on the renewal and reconstruction of the organ in Leeds Town Hall.
Built for the opening of the Victoria Hall in 1858, the huge four-manual instrument with nearly 100 stops was later rebuilt and went through two overhauls before it fell silent in 1968.
The existing three-manual organ will be removed later this year, returning as an enlarged four-manual when the hall reopens in 2023. Among those guiding the project is the Leeds City organist, Dariius Battiwalla.
The contract to renovate the organ has been awarded to our friends at Nicholson and Co, who have asked us to help in the making of the pipes. The best of the existing pipework will be retained, but many stops will be new and we will work alongside Nicholson to make 500 pipes using traditional methods.
Terry Shires says: 'It represents something important for us to have our name associated with Leeds Town Hall. And I'm very proud that my lad, Chris Shires, will have his name on pipes he makes for this instrument. Well done to all our team.'
It was pleasing to read a story in the Yorkshire Post about our potential contribution to the Presidential Inauguration tomorrow in Washington DC.
Readers were told that 'the music that wafts above Washington on Wednesday as the new President takes the oath of office may have a distinctly Yorkshire ring to it.'
This was a reference to the reed pipes we made for a new organ installed by the Noak Organ Company in 2019 in St Peter's Church on Capitol Hill.
After the story appeared on Saturday, we were contacted by radio and TV stations anxious to follow-up on the idea that organ pipes made in Yorkshire would accompany an event on which the eyes of the world would be fixed.
Sadly, we understand that the organ will not be used in the ceremony tomorrow. However, an idea of the variety and richness of its sound may may gained from this recording of the Mass for Easter.
There's a particular beauty to an organ facade displaying pipes of 80 per cent tin. A great deal of delicate work goes into manufacturing them so it is important they retain the brilliance of the factory finish when installed. The picture, right, shows the covering we apply to all front pipes. It protects the metal from marks, yet the pipes can be voiced and handled until they are placed in the instrument.
These pipes come from a two-manual Forster and Andrews organ built in 1893 for a church in Scotland and recently installed in a Roman Catholic church in Leeds. They had been damaged and badly repaired over the years and were brought to us for restoration by David Wood of Wood Organ Builders of Huddersfield. George Fowler, who has a remarkable history as a restorer, repaired the flue pipes and Terry Shires, also with wide experience in pipe restoration, gave fresh life to the reeds.
This tricky sort of work would be enough to send most of us round the bend – but it's just one of the skills in regular use in our Leeds workshop. The beautifully crafted eight-foot Hautbois pipes were made by Terry Shires from zinc with spotted metal bells. He says: 'Cutting and soldering mitres is one of my favourite jobs. Preparation and experience helps too!'
The two-manual, 28-stop organ in the First United Methodist Church in Henderson, Kentucky, is nearing completion and Shires was pleased to supply the facade pipes.
The intricate gilded pipe shades, carved by Morgan Faulds Pike, add the crowning touch to this beautiful case.
The instrument has been designed by the American organ builder, Michael Rathke, who spent two years of his early career with Mander Organs in London.
It is catalogued as Opus 10 in the Cincinnati company's expanding output.
It is also pleasing to record that Michael is among our growing number of clients in the United States.
Picture by Nikolai Peek, music director and organist.