Day Trip to Ypres
12th October 2002

The Nave

Ypres is indelibly associated with the First World War and as we entered the town through the Menin Gate we were reminded of this and of the terrible loss of life in the battles of the Ypres Salient.  The Gate is the British Memorial to the Missing, and the archway bears the names of 54,896 of those who died between 1914 and August 15th 1917 and have no known grave. 

  

The magnificent Cloth Hall was rebuilt in its original form 1920-1962, and opposite it in the Grote Market most of us visited the very attractive Chocolaterie of Peter De Groote, where our indefatigable President had arranged a group discount, and posters in the windows showed Welcome to the Kent County Organists’ Association.

As we had arrived promptly at 11.00-a.m. local time after travelling on the 7.51 am Channel Tunnel shuttle, there was time for coffee or a museum visit and lunch before we visited St. Martin's Cathedral at 1 p.m.  The 13th century cathedral was completely destroyed in the war, but was rebuilt in the late 1920s and has a splendid light Gothic style interior.

We were welcomed to the cathedral by Paul Andriessen, the organ builder who is responsible for the maintaining the organ, and Jan D’hulster who was to demonstrate the instrument. Paul Andriessen gave a brief description of this 1931 instrument built by Jules Anneessens of Menen.  (Grand Orgue 16 16 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 51/3 1V V 8 4  Positif Expressif 8 8 8 4 22/3 11 8 Récit Expressif 16 8 8 8 8 8 4 22/3 11/3 111 16 8 8 8 Pédale 16 16 8 8 8 4 102/3 16).  He described that the pipes were made of zinc, the actions pneumatic and the tuning was to equal temperament, “we have no Werckmeister here!” he said. We were later invited by Paul Andriessen to climb inside the organ and it became apparent that, in fact, the pipework trebles were of fine quality pipe metal with a high tin content.  Only the front pipes and basses were of zinc, although the 16ft pedal pipes were of good quality timber.  The soundboards were constructed on the one pallet for each note design, with a wind supply for each rank.  The trebles were “rolled slot” tuned with all languids and flues generously nicked, a voicing which looked surprisingly English. Stop control was by rocker tablets, each tablet having a small knob above it so that a combination could be pre-set.

The organ demonstration given by Jan D’hulster was an improvised symphony Lento Scherzo Adagio Toccata in the French style starting with soft shimmering strings and then building through the choruses showing every facet of the organ.  It was a dazzling display of colour and cross rhythms, which filled the building with a warm rich sound, the pedal basses being particularly full in tone.  The improvisation finished with full organ as the pedal Bombardon 16ft was added, the final chord taking some six to seven seconds to die away in the sympathetic acoustic of the cathedral.  After the demonstration, several members enjoyed playing this fine romantic style organ.

Ypres Organ Mixture rolled slots

The organ demonstration given by Jan D’hulster was an improvised symphony Lento Scherzo Adagio Toccata in the French style starting with soft shimmering strings and then building through the choruses showing every facet of the organ.  It was a dazzling display of colour and cross rhythms, which filled the building with a warm rich sound, the pedal basses being particularly full in tone.  The improvisation finished with full organ as the pedal Bombardon 16ft was added, the final chord taking some six to seven seconds to die away in the sympathetic acoustic of the cathedral.  After the demonstration, several members enjoyed playing this fine romantic style organ.

Ypres Organ interior

In the north transept, by the steps leading up to the organ gallery, there is a striking plaque bearing the inscription To the Glory of God and to the memory of one million dead of the British Empirewho fell in the Great War 1914-1918 many of whom rest in Belgium. One of these is Gary’s uncle, Charles Tollerfield, 1st Battalion Irish Fusiliers, who was killed on 1st October 1918 aged 18 and is buried in the New British Cemetery at Dadizele, some 12 km east of Ypres.  Our coach drivers kindly agreed to take Gary and Janet to see the grave which Gary’s father, who would have been 100 on 12th October, could never bring himself to visit.

St. George’s Memorial Church stands on a corner almost opposite the cathedral and was built 1927-29, the architect being Sir Reginald Blomfield.  It is a memorial to all who died in the Salient and the windows and furnishings all commemorate a unit or an individual.  More recent plaques are in memory of Sir Winston Churchill and Field Marshall Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, both having served on the Western Front in the Great War.  There is also a memorial to Field Marshall Sir John French, 1st Earl of Ypres (1852-1925) who was born in Ripple near Deal, and died at Walmer Castle.

     

We were greeted by the Chaplain, the Revd. Ray Jones, who spoke about the church. The organ, which possibly came from a country house, was given in memory of a lieutenant who died in the war.  It stands in a tiny chamber behind the south choir stalls and bears no maker's name, but recent opinion strongly suggests Bevington circa 1880.  The organ was demonstrated by our President and in total contrast to what we had just heard in the cathedral we found ourselves listening to a typical pleasing Victorian village church organ.  It is a single manual instrument with tracker action, the specification being:-

 

                                                Open diapason             8

                                                Stopt flute                   4

                                                Bell Gamba                  8

                                                Stopt diapason bass     8

                                                Stopt diapason treble    8

                                                Principal                       4

                                                Mixture

                                                Pedal Bourdon - one octave also playable on the manual

 

Our final visit of the day was to see the historical Van Peteghem organ in St. Martin’s Haringe, where we were greeted by the parish priest, Father Jozef Van Acker. He explained that the present church dates from the 11th century, but earlier foundations dating from 847 have recently been discovered.  It has many interesting features, not least, of which is the magnificent organ case and gallery.

Haringe Organ Case

The organ was built in 1778 by Pieter and Lambert-Benoit Peteghem and has escaped any modification or revoicing, making it unique among Belgian organs.  Organists of international repute take part in the recital series given each summer. The specification was given to us, but is repeated here because of its historical significance.

 

Great (C-e3)                            Positif (c-e3)                Pedal (Echo)

Bourdon                 16              Gedekt             8          Bourdon et Flûte  8+4

Montre                   8                Prestant            4          Echo de Cornet    111

Bourdon                 8                Flûte                4

Prestant                  4                Nazard            3         

Flûte                       4                Doublette        2

Nazard                   3                 Tierce             1 3/5     Tambours

Doublette               2                Fourniture       11          Tremblant royal

Quarte de Nazard  2                 Cornet             111       Tremblant doux

Tierce                     1 3/5          Trompette       8 B/D    Rossignol

Fourniture               111            Cromhorne      8          Shift Coupler

Cymbale                 11

Cornet                    V

Sexquialter             11

Bombarde             16

Trompette              8 B/D

Voix Humaine         8

Clarion                   4 B

 

It should be explained that the pedal/echo is controlled by 15 small wooden studs and is intended to play a simple melodic line only, perhaps plainsong, and not a bass part. Father Vormezele, the parish priest at the time, was suffering from tuberculosis, but put in hand the building of the organ and paid for it.  He died two days after it was first played on 17th April 1779.

     

Dirk Coutigny, the organist of the church who is also Director of Ypres Chamber Choir, demonstrated that this is the perfect instrument for French baroque music by playing movements from the Organ Mass on the 8th tone by Michel Corrette (1709-95), followed by three short pieces by Abraham Van den Kerkhoven.  Few of us can have heard such authentic sounds, from the Voix Humaine to the brilliant choruses.  It was an unforgettable experience.

     

Our President, Andrew Cesana had everything under perfect control except the dull wet weather.  On behalf of us all Michael Cooke expressed our grateful thanks to him for arranging such a memorable trip. 

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