Michael Holme came to music quite late. He was originally a scientist, but through a love of Chopin, discovered at the age of 20 (that in time gave way for proper music in the form of J.S. Bach and Beethoven) he started piano from scratch, on the instrument his late father bought him after he returned from uni. Over the next 30 years Michael practised on most days, but there were some longish periods of inactivity. His father was a chorister and organist, and it is perhaps only natural that Michael should be drawn to want to one day start organ practise also, especially since, Beethoven aside, Michael thinks the greatest keyboard/piano works are Bach’s 48 and the Partitas.
My wife and I visited Makin Organs in Shaw during their Saturday open day last weekend. It was my third visit ever. Clare, my late wife, and I, bought a Johannus two manual organ from the shop in 1999. I didn’t practise and we consequently sold it. Clare was already a useful organist who played during masses at St Clare’s Higher Blackley in Manchester. I’m still a beginner.
This summer I started researching organs again, and along with my second wife, Michelle, we visited Makin. I’d rang in advance, and Mark Johnson met us at the door. He was very friendly and led us straight upstairs to the very spacious showroom. We chatted easily, and after asking Mark, he happily provided me with some manuals alone pieces to sight-read. Parking is easy at Makin and the premises are impressive. I’d explained that I was probably looking at buying a second-hand digital organ with two manuals and a full pedalboard, and I was happy to tell Mark that a purchase would likely be some time in the future because of my financial status. Mark was more than happy to leave the pair of us alone whilst I enjoyed the stock. He was very encouraging for me to take all the time I wanted.
We left with some knowledge of what I might expect at a certain budget. More to the point, on shaking hands at the doorway, Mark said I was welcome to come back at any time. For someone who was only a potential customer, and also at the lower price end of the market, I felt completely respected and valued.
On the open day we turned up without ringing. Mark greeted us again. He remembered us of course. I told him we were still looking round. We discussed some of my research: older analog organs, which led to a broader discussion about analog electronics in general, and Hauptwerk. I’m trying to learn about the possible alternatives. As it happened the showroom had a Hauptwerk-like organ by Johannus. It was quite vertical with wonderful full-sized traditional pull stops at either side. I played it next to last just before a two manual Rodgers. The latter I would not have guessed cost £28,000 from sight alone. Having played piano for thirty years I can appraise any piano, but my ear is certainly not yet tuned in to the tone qualities and other aspects of organs. Visiting Makin Organs and being left to experiment with these instruments with no-one breathing down my neck, helped me begin to see differences. I don’t yet know anything about the art of choosing stops. I enjoyed every organ. That could ultimately help me budget-wise. I think more expensive organs with more than two manuals, and many, many stops, would be wasted on me. That was obvious on Saturday, but to be honest I could have realized that without even seeing an organ.
Incidentally, the managing director Keith Harrington came up to the showroom for a few minutes. He’d found my previous purchase on the computer. I wouldn’t have guessed last century, i.e. 1999, but that’s how I was able to quote that year earlier. Keith was less talkative, but he seem perfectly nice.
Makin Organs in Shaw is not your average walk in off the street shop. It’s not in a retail area anyway. I spent a good hour playing most of the organs to a lesser or greater amount. I’d say there were ten organs in total. It may have been a dozen. I brought my own manuals alone book of pieces for the open day. It was an Oxford all J.S. Bach book. My love of Bach, whose piano, or rather keyboard, pieces I play almost every day of my life, are certainly a reason for me to want an organ.
Full marks to Makin Organs.