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  • Some Projected Costs Seem a Bit High....

    A certain unnamed institution is for the first time since 1930 asking persons outside of its borders to support an ambitious organ project which when all is added up totals $8,000,000. Please note the specifics of this cost projection:'These costs are estimated at $5 million. There will be additional costs of approximately $3 million to remove the present organ, refurbish the existing 1913 organ case on the north side, and renovate other spaces. We are almost halfway to our goal.'' The organ itself will cost $5,000,000. No details are given as to the number of stops, ranks, or total number of pipes.

    $3,000,000 for:

    1] to remove the present organ

    2] refurbish the existing 1913 organ case on the north side

    3] and renovate other spaces

    Anybody care to venture a guess why refurbish an organ case will lost $1,000,000? Or to remove an organ why it will cost another $1,000,000? Then there are those nebulous ''other paces'', yes another million bucks.
    Any input would be welcome.

  • #2
    If it is the institution I think you are referencing, I could think of a few reasons why costs would run up that high, and I have listed them in another topic which raised this same question a couple of years ago. The institution you referenced is in a city which is heavily unionized, highly taxed, highly regulated. The institution has a heavy schedule of services which would have to be worked around, thus requiring work to be done in "off hours" so as not to disrupt (more than absolutely necessary) the use of the building in which the organ is being removed, the casework being renovated, etc. The cost of doing EVERYTHING in this city is way above what other areas of the country would consider "reasonable". Not just any old service company could remove a large existing organ under these circumstances without damage to either the facility or the existing organ.
    Rick in VA

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    • #3
      I know which institution you are referencing, and as VAPipeorgantuner says, there are a LOT of overhead and infrastructure costs that the average person doesn't necessarily consider as part of the renovation process. I don't anticipate that there would be major issues with union labor on the organ project itself, as it's not a union facility, but there are a lot of other surrounding issues. As the owner of a company that does work in and around the city in question, the simple cost of doing business is a LOT higher than in other places in the country. But here are some of the other issues that drive the "refurbishment" price up:

      1. The cost of insurance for a company to simply work in that building, in that city, and around all the historical and valuable stuff is very high.

      2. Any space being renovated almost certainly has to be brought to current building and safety codes, including fire system and sprinkler/fire protection in the organ chambers, blower rooms, and all intermediate spaces. I can't imagine ANY city fire official allowing a new project with so much flammable material involved that doesn't have a very comprehensive fire detection and protection system installed. As water sprinklers are problematic around a pipe organ, there's little doubt that some more complex approach is necessary. Using wood that's not fire-treated (as would be the case in an organ) in any new construction is extremely problematic in large-scale commercial construction under current codes without ridiculous amounts of protective infrastructure. And there's far less wiggle room than you might imagine. Fire protection and detection systems alone could cost a minimum of $500,000, probably a good bit more, in the spaces in question.

      3. The structural supports have to be re-engineered. This involves steelwork and union labor, and the same difficulties and insurance requirements of working in an historic building with irreplaceable fixtures and furnishings apply. Not cheap from an engineering or build standpoint.

      4. Refinishing the casework is more a historical preservation undertaking than it is throwing a new coat of polyurethane on the thing. The structure probably has to be reworked for the new organ, and the whole case has to be dismantled, carefully stripped and refinished, stored in the interim, and then re-erected. And that north side case is HUGE.

      As I have said elsewhere, and as much as it would be nice to have a new organ in that building, I believe the authorities of the church in question have over-reached, as the current instrument doesn't exactly sound like the gawdawful contraption they make it out to be, and the decline in the instrument's condition and artistic value happened on their watch. There are many other instruments by the same builder, some within blocks, that are soldiering on quite nicely and are well-regarded.

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      • #4
        Michaelhoddy, have you played the organ at this "institution" recently? If so, I bet you played it on a good day, mechanically speaking. It is not a case of the organist wanting a new plaything (I have no agenda here, by the way, and I don't work for this "institution"). It is a case of the organ being in totally disastrous shape--such bad shape that it's in fact worth replacing. Some days, it works like a charm, but others, it is unpredictable and unwieldy; it's been that way since well before the more intrusive rebuilds. On some days, when the tuning is funky and the action spotty, the organ really is the gawdawful contraption they make it out to be. Trust me; I've had several issues on it.
        Why are we calling it an "unnamed institution"? The people that can get us in trouble for this thread already know what we are talking about.
        As of 7/16/2013, no longer active on forum.
        Practice hard, practice well.

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        • #5
          I haven't played it since 1996, so I would have no way of knowing its recent playability issues. But that's not the point. The point is how it sounds and how it appears to function to the average person who would be writing checks for this campaign. And to them, it is used week in and week out for services and recitals and sounds pretty good. Especially in the competent hands of the organists who play it. As long as this is the case, and as long as there's any question of whose responsibility the instrument's current condition ultimately is, even if many of the deciding factors occurred 40 years ago, I do not predict the church is going to come up with funding for a complete replacement.

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          • #6
            I am wanting to keep an open mind on this project. The posts are very well thought-out and do make a lot of good sense. I would love to see a super fine new instrument go there. However, the costs anticipated just seem a bit prohibitive even for the super-wealthy that frequent that particular institution. What say the rest of you? Too expensive even if totally justifiable and within reason?

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            • #7
              My understanding is that the Crystal Cathedral organ was a gift from one donor. Adjusting for inflation I don't think we are out of a comparable Ballpark at $8 Million. So if the issue touches the heart of the right person it should be completely doable! Hey, maybe Donald Trump can get someone to add this to the Apprentice Charities?

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              • #8
                That's a lot of money in anybody's reckoning!
                John
                ----------
                *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

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                • #9
                  JBird, do you think that we are looking too high these days in terms of organ spec's. Even electronically speaking we want our builders to deliver 4 and 5 instruments (voicings) in one. Would you suggest that we remember that these are hard times and turn back a few decades when things were made modestly and affordably to give pleasure to the greatest number of people possible? Even in cars and homes advertising suggests that everything the can be done should be done. And that is driving prices to the limit -- just count repo's and foreclosures and ask if we went a little crazy? Go back to the post depression era when people went to church with a humble pump organ. They were just as happy and just as blessed (maybe more so) than we who enjoy so many material things.

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                  • #10
                    The church I attend has a Klais instrument with 4 manuals, 70 stops, 83 ranks, and 4446 pipes. It cost approximately $1,500,000 and was paid for by one couple in the church as a gift. It includes a small (4 stops) Antiphonal/Solo division in the rear balcony. I know there were other expenses paid for by the church (lodging/food for the workers, scaffolding erection/teardown, power, etc.) but I don't know what that cost was. And, of course, this was a totally new building so no dismantling was required. I don't know what facility is being alluded to, or where it is located (NYC?) but if Unions get involved one can expect costs to at least double. Depending on the venue, $8 million might not be a bad estimate (too much, IMHO, but possibly accurate).

                    flashguy

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                    • #11
                      I only commented so I would be subscribed to the thread. My expertise is in digitals, not pipes, so I can't say anything definitive about these costs. If folks are willing to pony up for this, it's a free country and who's to stop them? It does seem like an awful lot of money though!

                      Personally, I have heard and played Walker (all-digital custom) organs that would certainly satisfy me. I might be less inclined to turn over a project like this to the mass-producers, but the custom guys should be able to do it justice. Perhaps another project for Marshall & Ogeltree? (Ducking and running for cover now.)
                      John
                      ----------
                      *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                      https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                      • #12
                        There are enough Marshall & Ogeltree organs in the city of this "institution" as it is... I would literally tear my hair out.
                        This "institution" does need a pipe organ, and not only for purely musical reasons. It is a prestigious place, and there will be many fewer recitalists playing there if a toaster replaces the august old organ. Many of them will not take it seriously as a venue anymore.
                        Part of me wishes the old organ was repairable. There is so much music still in it. But whatever price tag the "institution" decides on, there will need to be a new organ, no two ways about it. Is the "builder" they decided on the best for the job? I think so. But it is a builder who is very lavish with its materials and time.
                        As of 7/16/2013, no longer active on forum.
                        Practice hard, practice well.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I understand completely. A church like that certainly ought to have the real thing, though it's a little awkward that they are having to beg for funding from outside the church. Coming from a completely different background, both religiously and culturally, I'd not expect a church to depend on outsiders in that way, and churches that I have been a part of have generally had to be content with what they could afford as far as organs (though few churches are too proud to accept the gift of a fine organ!) ...

                          But the church in question here is obviously much more than just a church. It is a landmark, a prestigious musical venue, a renowned cultural institution. So it is a little more acceptable that they are openly seeking money from the outside. After all, a great many of the people who will be attending recitals there will be non-members, and the church itself will be the beneficiary of their generosity.

                          I was jesting about putting in another M&O of course, because I know there is still too much resistance. But as computing power increases exponentially while costs come down, and conversely, the cost of pipe organs and their maintenance climbs, there will probably be some surprising placements of pipe organs with very high-end digital stuff such as M&O or Walker.
                          John
                          ----------
                          *** Please post your questions about technical service or repair matters ON THE FORUM. Do not send your questions to me or another member by private message. Information shared is for the benefit of the entire organ community, but other folks will not be helped by information we exchange in private messages!

                          https://www.facebook.com/pages/Birds...97551893588434

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                          • #14
                            I would love to see the organ at that institution up and running in full working order again. I've only seen old videos of it, especially if it is the institution I think we're all talking about.
                            Fishers, IN

                            At School Church: Wicks III/40
                            At Church Where I Am Director: Hammond BV with Leslie 122
                            Summer Practice Organ: Rodgers III/47

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                            • #15
                              If this thread isn't about St. Thomas in NYC, what institution are we talking about?
                              -Admin

                              Allen 965
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