Once it has been cleaned, it will be ready for Allan to tune. A regular tune up, when the organ has been regularly played and maintained, takes two or three eight-hour nights (the Concert Hall is usually too busy to be tuned at any other time). But after this extended period of slumber, Allan expects the tuning to take two to three weeks. It’s a two-person effort, with one on the console and the other inside, making sure volume, tone and speech – the “voice” of the pipe, which can be particularly affected by dust – are correct.
Allan has been told the organ may be required for opening night. “No pressure!” he says with a laugh.
While construction continues during the COVID-19 pandemic, Carpenter notes, the organ is an “inherently socially distant” instrument: it was designed to replace whole orchestras, and the organist is isolated high above their audience.
“It’s easier to enjoy when it’s not coupled with other forces,” Carpenter says. “It’s not that there aren’t great things done for organ and orchestra – that’s all true – but the reality is that [it is designed] to stand alone. That is why it has such great range … It doesn’t require other instruments as today’s stringed instruments do.”
He adds: “I’ve always thought of the organ as outside classical music. It’s one of the reasons that the organ – in its bizarre, broken way – will survive the transitions that we’re going through now with COVID-19 as little else will because it is an independent body; it exists in the digital and physical realm.”
Carpenter has described his relationship to the instrument as “quite troubled” and “obsessive”.
“How do you take this machine that is tied to the wall and has no remote history to you, your life, and is supposed to be an artistic medium and try to get it to do something? It’s almost impossible.
“It gives more but it asks more,” he says. “A lot of the time I am frustrated with it but it can give me something that nothing else can.”