Just as some remote tribesmen fear that cameras and mirrors have the power to steal their souls, there are those in our modern world, in a strange primordial reversal of perception, that extol the belief that unless the latest digital technology is used to convey our ideals and thinking, they become devalued and passÚ. In reality, values become subjugated, the means of delivery more important than the message.
Thankfully, our visit to Hunton and Teston last November was free of such ideology: two Kent churches encapsulating the values that have shaped our society, and providing a unique insight into our social history. As well as the annals of 17th and 18th century families recorded at Hunton, Teston Church bears singular witness to the desperate plight of African slaves and the final abolition of this pernicious trade in 1807.
Of course, the organs in these churches are of great interest, the Father Willis at Hunton in particular. Here is an instrument that can sing and communicate in a way that defies any modern computer based appliance, the fine craftsmanship of every timber and pipe a shining example of Father Willis quality. The Eustace Ingram organ at Teston, although not so spectacular, still exudes a tonal warmth and character that can stir souls.
Our “foreign correspondent” Nigel Durrant brings us interesting news, his Notes from the Netherlands reporting the work of the Dutch government which, working together with organ experts, has produced a document entitled Klinkende Monumenten, which lays down recommendations for organ restoration and preservation. Some of these Dutch instruments are pre-Reformation and many have been painstakingly restored. Although some are small, seemingly insignificant organs, Dutch heritage is undoubtedly being preserved.
Kevin Grafton, in his revealing Austrian recital article, paints a similarly encouraging picture of a treasured organ and church at S÷ll, known as the ‘Cathedral of the Tyrol’.
Fortunately, our national myopic cultural malaise has not fully infected the English speaking world, as this Journal’s Sesquialtera article and report from Australia reveals. The outstanding workmanship and stunning restoration of the Hill Norman & Beard concert organ at Melbourne Town Hall is a glowing example of thoughtful preservation of Melbourne’s heritage.
Hopefully not all is lost in this country as with our influence through our Kent County Organists’ Association and the Incorporated Association of Organists we have the opportunity to campaign for the retention and full use of our organs. Nigel Durrant tells us that a translation of the Dutch Klinkende Momumenten may soon be available and hopefully its recommendations can be studied on this side of the English Channel.
Our new President, Roger Gentry, brings renewed enthusiasm, starting with the organisation of a successful President’s Dinner at Maidstone last September. The extraordinary circumstance of our visit coinciding with a virulent Maidstone tummy bug was, for some, most unfortunate, but hopefully it was a twist of fate that will not be repeated.
Our younger members have also been encouragingly active. Alistair Curtis has written a fascinating piece for the Journal on his visit to Gloucester Cathedral where he thoroughly enjoyed the organ’s “awesome tonalities”. Here, Alistair was to invoke the ghost of Herbert Howells with a carefully chosen voluntary.
Barbara Childs reminds us of the importance of our Organ Festival at All Saints’ Church, Maidstone on 17th May this year, where we must encourage and support the next generation of young organists: it promises to be a memorable occasion.
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