Frindsbury & Strood

All Saints’ Church, Frindsbury stands high on a spur of the North Downs, which commands spectacular panoramic views of the River Medway. The river winds its way from the M2 Motorway Bridge then, as it broadens, sweeps passed Rochester with its Cathedral and Castle and then on out to the sea. With a clear late afternoon sun these Lilliputian views of Rochester and Strood from All Saints’ tower were only one of the delights of our visit on 9th November.

    We were greeted at the church by Derek Barnard a local historian of All Saints’. His dry sense of humour carried us through a detailed talk as he pointed out the most interesting features of this fine, originally Norman, church built in 1127. Although the church evolved over time it underwent major changes in 1883 at the instigation of the architect J. L. Pearson.

     Following our talk we were given a résumé and demonstration of the Forster & Andrews organ by the organist John Wormell. The instrument was moved from its chancel position and re-sited in the Nave in 1987 by Browne & Sons who also made some tonal additions which included a mixture and a Trumpet in the Swell and extensions on the Pedal enlarging it to four stops from the original Bourdon 16ft. John delightfully demonstrated the organ with music by Percy Whitlock and Malcolm Archer, which together covered the full tonal range of the instrument.

     A good tea was provided for us at St. Nicholas’ Church, Strood where Andrew Cesana, our President, is organist. We were provided with detailed specifications and history of the organ, which has an interesting pedigree. It was built originally by Wedlake of Manchester in 1851 and some of the Great organ ranks survive from this period; the Stopped Diapason 8ft is a fine example. A major rebuild by J. W. Walker took place in 1953 with a new console and electric action and remains basically unchanged apart from a cleaning and overhaul during the intervening years.

     We were pleased to have detailed programmes for the Organ Duo and Duet recital to be given by Andrew Cesana and Michael Cooke. It included music by Wesley, Soler, Elgar, Walton and an improvisation, Seven variations on a French theme, by Andrew. This improvisation showed the full tonal gamut of the organ although, regretfully, the more delicate Wesley at the start of the programme, lacked articulation and phrasing clarity. Although Michael Cooke played a convincing Spanish piece on his electronic keyboard we were not to hear the promised Solemn Prelude ‘For the Fallen’ by Elgar or Coronation March Orb and Sceptre by Walton. In its place we heard a tape recording of a Spanish organ played by Michael.

     Considering it was Remembrance Sunday the following day and that we had a good number of visitors from the Bromley and Croydon Association, this proved a disappointment at the end, of what had been, an enjoyable afternoon.

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