Westerham St. Mary

Following our AGM and a very full afternoon last July at St. Mary’s Church, Westerham, it is unfortunate we were prevented from reporting the meeting adequately in our August Journal owing to lack of space; indeed, the engaging recital by Paul Isom was afforded only a few words. Nevertheless, Paul is Director of Music at Brasted Parish Church as well as Rochester Diocesan Organ Adviser. He chose an interesting recital programme, featuring perhaps the more avant-garde composers, but it provided an excellent demonstration of the Lewis organ’s tonalities. His programme was: Fugue by Jehan Alain; Allegretto, Modéré and Allegro Maestoso from Vingt-quatre Pièces by André Fleury; Elévation by Edouard Batiste; Choral: Hommage  à César Franck by Gerald Hendrie; and Final-Toccata from Suit Romantique by Denis Bédard.

Paul launched himself into the music with a formidable gusto, pausing just occasionally to mop his brow on this warm July afternoon. His playing revealed the organ’s inmost nuance and character, rich in Lewis diapason tone and colour. Originally built for Wymondham Abbey in 1871, with an unusually carved and decorated Swell box, it was installed at Westerham in 1883. It was rebuilt and enlarged by Kingsgate Davidson in 1962, with a new console and electric action.

For many years the original console case, complete with keyboards and stop jambs, remained stored on the east side of the organ, but with work in the church they were removed. Fortunately, Paul rescued the keyboards, which are now with F H Browne and the stop jambs he has at home. The jambs show the original fourteen-stop Lewis specification, which was subsequently enlarged to twenty-four stops in the 1962 rebuild.

After tea there was an absorbing talk by Bruce Nuttal on glass etching and his work on the glass screen of St. Mary’s Resurrection Chapel, which enjoyably concluded a charming afternoon.

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