Also in my garage

An ex­pert mu­si­cian whose eye for qual­ity ex­tends from in­stru­ments to clas­sic cars


Diploma-stan­dard or­gan­ist – and gold-stan­dard or­gan en­thu­si­ast – Mar­tyn Warsop has played some of Britain’s most revered in­stru­ments, in­clud­ing in West­min­ster Abbey and Buck­ing­ham Palace. He’s a keen mem­ber of the Cam­bridge Or­gan­ists’ As­so­ci­a­tion, and com­pares it favourably to… the Rolls-royce En­thu­si­asts’ Club. “Peo­ple are so knowl­edge­able and help­ful,” he says. “It’s a sim­i­lar fel­low­ship to the or­gan world.”

For Warsop, meet­ing Ken­neth Tick­ell was a life-changer: “He was the great­est or­gan-builder of his gen­er­a­tion. A self-ef­fac­ing ge­nius and un­usual in hav­ing en­gi­neer­ing skills and mu­si­cal abil­ity. One day, he asked me to stand in for him play­ing at a wed­ding. Then he asked me to work with him. I was work­ing for the county coun­cil and hated it, so I thought, ‘Why not?’ I was never a builder, though, just a gen­eral fac­to­tum.”

It was the early ’80s and Tick­ell was forg­ing his rep­u­ta­tion as he de­signed, built and in­stalled cham­ber or­gans in West­min­ster Abbey and St Paul’s, and the main or­gans in Worces­ter and New­cas­tle Ro­man Catholic cathe­drals: “We also did or­gan trans­plants – res­cu­ing or­gans from one church and putting them in an­other – which is where I came in. The two of us shifted a huge one from Ri­p­ley to Stoke Bruerne; I don’t know how we did it, but I still play it now. Ken was a men­tor to me. His bril­liance was in mak­ing sure the or­gan al­ways looked right for the build­ing.”

Warsop’s grand­fa­ther worked at Joseph Ma­son Paints, sup­plier of Rolls-royce ‘Ma­son’s Black’, and took one of Mar­tyn’s toy Rollers to work to paint it in the fa­mous liq­uid, which de­rived its gloss from fish scales. The sol­vent was so strong it melted the plas­tic win­dows, and Warsop yearned for a real Royce: “I bought my 1979 Shadow II in 2004 af­ter I was left some money by an ec­cen­tric un­cle. It was the first one I looked at, so that was prob­a­bly a mis­take, but it’s rare, one of 75 ‘red-badge’ UK an­niver­sary cars. Since then, it’s done more than 100,000 miles and I use it all the time. That’s the best way with a Sil­ver Shadow: if you don’t use them reg­u­larly, you’re con­stantly recom­mis­sion­ing them, and Rolls-royces keep go­ing even when they’re drop­ping to bits. Rather like or­gans, re­ally.”

The car shares garage space with one of his two vin­tage Amer­i­can reed or­gans: “I’ve had it since the late ’60s. It was in a church army hos­tel chapel in Derby that closed down, and they gave it to me.” The other, a rare portable bat­tle­field ex­am­ple, hogs a cor­ner of the liv­ing room, jostling for space with a vast col­lec­tion of record­ings and a clavi­chord, the first in­stru­ment Tick­ell built from scratch in 1981: “Clavi­chords hit the strings, whereas harp­si­chords pluck them. Ev­ery key is hand­made; they look like wooden wheel spokes. It was in Ken’s fac­tory for years and one day his widow just gave it to me.”

Tick­ell passed away in 2014, leav­ing his team to com­plete his swan­song, an enor­mous or­gan for Manch­ester Cathe­dral. Warsop then went into the hi-fi in­dus­try, us­ing his highly sen­si­tive ear for or­gan tim­bre to fine-tune the equip­ment for dis­cern­ing au­dio­philes. “It’s of­ten where you play an or­gan that in­spires you,” he says. “You can live with a ter­ri­ble or­gan in a mag­nif­i­cent build­ing be­cause of the sur­round­ings. But if you man­age the dou­ble whammy – for me that would be Worces­ter Cathe­dral – that’s won­der­ful.”

Frop top: Warsop with beloved Rolls-royce and portable bat­tle­field or­gan; vin­tage Amer­i­can reed or­gan lives in the garage

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