Nicholson’s team has been making fantastic progress and having started groaning into life a week ago, she is now making lots of interesting sounds. The voicing specialist is expected next week to do some work on the voicing of the organ, but first the installation team had a couple of important jobs to do.
Before being removed Betty was notoriously difficult to maintain. The old Swell box had originally been accessible from the North gallery, which was removed nearly a century ago! And the layout of the pedals provided no access to the pipes for tuning. If you got inside, you’d need to bring a torch, making maintenance incredibly difficult.
So the new installation has lots of foot boards for gaining access to the organ to do maintenance. Some of these were pre-existing, but most of them have been designed for the adjusted layout. The Swell box, rather than having inaccessible doors on either side to tune the pipes, now has a central entrance with space for organ builders to stand in the middle and maintain the pipes. This is one of the reasons the box has grown so significantly. There are also ladders being installed so that access can be safely achieved.
So that it’s easy to see what you are doing when you get inside, there are a set of maintenance strip lights being installed, to light up the inside of the organ for maintenance. Perhaps Betty will end up looking like she’s glowing once all is done. The installation team, having been working with workman’s hanging lights, are very pleased to now be able to see what they are doing as the majority of the pipes go in.
At the same time as access was being improved, adjustments were being made to ensure air pressure coming through the soundboards is correct, regardless of the demand on they system. So the air reservoirs expand when there is no demand and a set of springs and weights keep the pressure to the desired level regardless of the degree to which they are expanded. These all needed adjusting so pressure wouldn’t drop off as the demand went up and the springs loosened off. As well as effecting the sound, this pressure has an effect on the tracker action linking the keys to the pallets on the soundboards. Each key was checked and adjusted individually to a 30g setting. This means that with a 30g weight on the key, it depresses slightly but not sufficiently to play the note, but when an additional 10g weight is added the key drops and the pallet is opened, playing the note on the selected stops.