Restorer hopes to know his shallots

29 November 2007

by Rachel Harden

A clock restorer, Alan Partridge, has won a £7200 training grant to become the only qualified reed-shallot maker in the country.

Mr Partridge (above) hopes to master the ancient, specialised craft of reed shallots, made especially for large organs, and modernise the techniques used. English organ pipes have a brass reed shallot at the bottom, a style that differs from anywhere else in the world. A set of organ pipes can require 61 shallots or more.

But the last remaining shallot maker in the UK is unable to work. Mr Partridge’s grant is from the Queen Elizabeth Scholarship Trust, the charitable arm of the Royal Warrant Holders Association. Mr Partridge said he will use the money to gain assistance from expert reed-voicers, the people who use the shallots. With their help, he hopes to decipher the technical information in the workshop books compiled by former reed-shallot makers.

Mr Partridge qualified as a blacksmith before setting up his own clock-restoring business in 1990. Hitherto, he has worked unpaid with Robin Stannard, the existing expert, who recently suffered a stroke.

He said this week: “These precision components can be found in great cathedral organs throughout the country, from Westminster Abbey to King’s College, Cambridge. To maintain the unique tone of British organs, reed shallots must continue to be made in the traditional English way.”

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