An Organist’s Diary

by Andrew Cesana

Writing “An Organist’s Diary” in early December gives me an opportunity to reflect on the past year and to give further news about the organ world, including events in and outside of Kent.

First, it is with sadness that I have to inform members of the death of Alan Harwood, Organist of St. Martin’s Church, Salisbury, on 10th July 2003 after a six-month battle against prostrate cancer, aged 57 years. A three-hour vigil of organ music was held at St. Martin’s on Sunday evening of 20th July following Evensong and his funeral was held on Monday 21st July, which was a Solemn Requiem that included plainsong and music by Mozart. Over 500 people, including Barry Ferguson, who was representing the RSCM, attended the service. Following the service, the committal took place privately at Salisbury Crematorium, but those who attended were able to attend the buffet at Salisbury College near St. Martin’s Church. A memorial concert has been arranged at Salisbury Cathedral, to take place on Saturday 17th January 2004, for those who were not able to attend the funeral, but, hopefully, those not able to attend the concert would be able to commemorate Alan’s life in some special way on the same date. What also is poignant for Alan was that just before his death, one of his articled pupils at Bishop Wordsworth’s School, Ben Davis, was appointed as the Organ Student at Salisbury Cathedral. A fitting tribute indeed!

Also, I have to inform members of two further deaths. First, that of Dr. Brian Blackwood, President of the Brighton and District Organists’ Association, who died following a heart attack whilst on the Association’s trip to Dieppe on Saturday 13th September 2003. His Requiem Mass took place at St. Mary Magdalene’s R.C. Church, Brighton on Thursday 9th October 2003. We send our condolences to his family and to the Brighton Association on the loss of their President. Secondly, members who were on the trip to St. Albans in 1998 will be saddened to learn of the death of Bill Walker, Curator of the St. Albans Organ Museum, in August 2003, after a long illness. His burial took place in Scotland following his funeral at the St. Albans Organ Museum.

Unfortunately, it was also learned that, during the summer, Sir Edward Heath, our distinguished Honorary Member who we had the privilege of meeting during our visit to Salisbury recently, was taken ill whilst attending the Mozart Festival in Salzburg, thereby necessitating his return to London to the King Edward VII Hospital for further treatment. Our thoughts are still with Sir Edward and we remember the time of our meeting with him. He has in fact contributed the foreword to the new book by Ian Bell about the Royal Albert Hall Organ which will be published shortly.

Two days after Alan Harwood’s funeral in July, I attended the Sarum College’s Improvisation for All course. The course tutors were Martin Baker, Daniel Moult, and Andrew Smith. It seemed poignant to return to St. Martin’s Church as, regretfully, we did not have the opportunity of meeting Alan Harwood in June. I thoroughly enjoyed improvising a Tryptique on Ave Maris Stella in the style of Pierre Cochereau at the organ of Salisbury Cathedral fairly early on the Saturday morning of the course, and I sincerely apologise if it caused disturbance in the Cathedral Close!

Our congratulations must be extended to Robert Fielding, Director of the Centre for Liturgical Organ Studies on his appointment as Organist and Director of Music at Romsey Abbey with effect from January 2004. The Walker organ of 1858 is a lovely instrument. It would be great if the KCOA could visit there.

I heard Chartres Cathedral Organ again during August although I fell ill whilst with the Knights of Our Lady Chapter there. I also went to Belgium in September on the Organ Tour with Philip and Pam Carter from Bristol who organised the tour to Spain last year in which our current President participated! The Belgian tour is reported elsewhere in the Journal.

As I think more about the challenges ahead for 2004, it must be said that it will be an active one. I was elected onto the IAO Council at the last AGM at Beverley Minster and I will succeed Nigel Groome as President of the Bromley and Croydon District Organists’ Association in April 2004 at St. Margaret’s Church, Lee which houses a fine 3 manual Walker, restored by Harrisons in 1999. Their Annual Dinner will be held on 26th June 2004 at St. Mark’s R.C. Church Hall, West Wickham. Their last meeting incorporated a visit to Wimbledon Parish Church, with the 3-manual Hunter of 1925 excellently demonstrated by Norman Harper, Director of Music, and to the fine 3-manual Walker of 1912 at the Sacred Heart R.C. Church, superbly demonstrated by David Gammie the Organist there with music by Bach, Whitlock and Weitz. Robert Rathbone, the Director of Music  talked about the instrument beforehand. A  KCOA meeting there perhaps?

It has been a good year which saw the acceptance of Dr. Rowan Williams’s Patronage of the Association in May and the good support from the members. Michael Keays, Organist of Aylesford Parish Church has copies of his Requiem CD at £6 each and he can be contacted at 2, The Beeches, Aylesford, Kent. Our Committee will continue to work hard to maintain the high standard of meetings and my role as an IAO Councillor will, I’m sure, help this further. Let us not forget that 2006 is the Diamond Jubilee of the Association. Any ideas? I hope you all had a Happy Christmas and may I wish you a prosperous New Year.


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