Kent County Organists’ Association
February 2015 Journal
The articles on this page are in the order published in the paper edition of the Journal
To go to a specific article click on the alphabetical list of contents below
Bury St. Edmunds - a preview of our visit in May
Desmond Edward Harvey MBIM
Early nineteenth centuary organs in Kent
Notes from the Netherlands
Review of recent meetings
Westgate & Margate
Rolvenden & Tenterden
The IOA Annual Congress 2014
IT IS ENCOURAGING to see continuing good attendances at monthly meetings from a widening range of members, justifying the work of those (thank you again) who organise them. Looking forward, I draw particular attention to 18th July at St Mary’s Church Platt, combining the AGM with a President’s Recital, a two-yearly innovation of which I hope members will approve. Our good friend Paul Hale will give this, in memory of Gary Tollerfield.
In response to requests, the coach trip on 2nd May will start at Canterbury – the level of support for that will influence future policy.
Please book in time for meetings. It is discourteous to our hosts if we arrive with more members than declared because of late bookings, and may mean reduced rations for those who have met the deadline, even an embarrassing dash to the shops if supplies run short. I should not want to find that we have to debar those who book late from having tea.
Congratulations to our 2011 Festival winner, Martyn Noble, on his appointment as Sub-Organist at the Chapel Royal, St. James’s; he will host our visit to the Queen’s Chapel there on 18th April. Clearly a route to success is via our Festival, which I hope will attract good support this year on 21st March in Maidstone.
We were sorry to hear of the passing, on 4th January, of John Lawson Baker. A long-standing member, John was a member of East Farleigh choir for many years, and also an alto deputy at Rochester Cathedral. He was a composer with many published anthems and other works to his name. On leaving Kent he moved to Ely, where he received us on a visit not so long ago. Our sympathies also to our Deputy President, Andrew Cesana, on the loss of his mother on 15th January. Our condolences and prayers are with them and their families.
We have been glad to welcome more new members in recent months, but please keep your eyes and ears open to encourage continuing recruitment. The future of your Association does depend on keeping fresh blood coming into it.
Please also consider whether you may feel able to join the Committee. We are already two light, and four memberships expire in 2016, throwing an immense burden on those who will remain unless we keep ahead of the game. The duties are light if there are enough people to share them, and the benefits to the Association much greater if we have a sufficient base from which to continue the good work. Do let me know if you think you can join in. Meanwhile, renewed thanks to the present Committee for all that they do.
With best wishes for 2015.
Martyn Noble at Canterbury Photo: Brian Moore
OUR PRESIDENT’S Buffet Supper, held last September at the Pilgrims Hotel, Canterbury, attracted a goodly number of members and guests. Situated in The Friars, the Pilgrims Hotel is a Grade 11 listed building which, dating from the 16th century, still retains something of its period charm, although, as we arrived, with daylight fading, it was difficult not to ignore the glow of the new Marlowe Theatre opposite, its avant-garde architecture of soaring glass and concrete exuding a ghostly purple iridescence. The spacious foyer of this, most recent of Canterbury’s theatrical incarnations, was bustling and busy with pre-theatre drinks and assignations, as, indeed, was the dining room of the Pilgrims Hotel, reflecting Canterbury’s now somewhat disconcerting 21st century juxtaposi- tion of cosmopolitan vitality and old- world charm.
Gratifyingly, our hotel buffet room was attractively laid ready allowing time for pre-buffet drinks and welcoming members and guests. We were particularly pleased to welcome our guest Jane Edred Wright, widow of Edred Wright, who was Director of Music at The King’s School, Canterbury, during the time our President, Nicholas King, was a pupil there; interestingly, he was a contemporary of Reg Adams and David Willcocks when they were choristers at Westminster Abbey. He did great things for the RSCM during its formative years, as well as preparing the treble choir for the Coronation in 1953. Before starting on our plentiful buffet, member The Revd. Ben Crick said Grace. Its content was clear and respectful, yet delightfully entertaining, drawing on words from the hymn Angel-voices ever singing with reference to ‘craftsman’s art and music’s measure’, cleverly interpret- ed as a ‘barman’s measure’ as we enjoyed our drinks.
Rosemary& Chris Clemence preparing the computer slide quiz Photo C Jilks
Marlowe Theatre Photo C. Jilks
Kindly organised by Rosemary Clemence, the raffle was drawn during coffee, before a computer slide show quiz, with pictures taken at recent meetings by Chris Clemence. The ques- tions were not what we were expecting, as they did not refer directly to the organs we had visited, but more to the buildings and their history; even the ancient history of an organist’s ancestors, at a church visited during the early part of the year, was included. This revealed those who pay attention at meetings and those who allow their minds to digress and amble aimlessly; once again, our deputy President, Andrew Cesana, proved he was the master of these intriguing, if exasperating, competitions, seeming to have an instant recall of all relevant facts and figures while others are left vainly scratching their heads.
A Buffet Supper, by its very nature, allows time to mingle and circulate, catching up on summer events, and members must thank Nicholas for organising this successful and enjoyable evening for us, whetting our appetites for future meetings with their prospect of interesting organs and venues.
THANET, on first acquaintance, may not appear to be the prettiest of places, being rather flat with an over- abundance of cabbage fields; moving with the times, there are also many commercial growers using vast green- houses that emit a warm ethereal glow, which curiously permeate the winter’s gloom. Nevertheless, Thanet does have a distinctive character, exemplified in place names such as: Monkton, Stodmarsh, Sarre, Paramour Street and Plumpudding Island, not forgetting Pegwell Bay where St. Augustine landed in AD597.
Although Thanet’s major conurbation of Margate, Ramsgate and Broadstairs now dominate its north-east corner, their humble origins can be traced back for over a thousand years. Margate was recorded as “Meregate” in 1264 becom- ing “Margate” in 1299, the name denot- ing a gate or gap in a cliff where the water allowed access to the sea, an evolving history closely tied to the sea and a proud maritime tradition.
However, our visit on 15 November began at Westgate, now a suburb of Margate, which, before 1860, consisted of a single farm, a coastguard station and a few cottages; its name is inherited from the nearby medieval Westgate Manor. St James’s Church, our first venue of the afternoon, was built in 1872 and retains its clean Victorian stone- built lines and internal furniture, although the chancel is now clear, with the original choir pews removed.
The present organ dates from 1960, a F H Browne & Sons two-manual and pedal instrument built with a distinctive chancel case and detached electric console. The Great diapason is cleverly arranged to form the organ’s attractive case display and its tonal design takes advantage of wide-ranging extension work. Michael Cooke demonstrated the organ for us, improvising on different themes, revealing a workmanlike mid-twentieth century sound
F H Browne of Canterbury Organ, St. James's Church, Westgate Photo C. Jilks
The Great 8ft diapason is extended to produce a 4ft principal, although the Great twelfth and fifteenth are derived from the organ’s dulciana rank. In the Swell, there are extensions from the 8ft geigen diapason and also the 8ft lieblich gedackt, providing some very convincing choruses. The Swell strings are derived from the 8ft salicional, but do have an independent voix celeste; the Swell trumpet is extended to provide lavish sounding 16-8-4 reeds, which are also playable on the pedal. The organ’s specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 4 22/3 2 13/5; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 4 4
22/3 213/5 1 16 8 4; Pedal Organ, 32 16 16 8 8 4 16 8 4, with usual couplers.
A queue of members enjoyed playing this worthy organ, which may not exude an extravagance of character, but is well designed and voiced for the church and service playing requirements. We are most grateful to Peter Reed, their organist, for his kindly welcome and allowing us unfettered freedom to enjoy the instrument.
Moving on to Margate, passing its distinctive clock tower and sandy beaches, in the process of being replenished and restored, we arrived at the Parish Church of St John. There has been a church on this site since 1050 and the village of “Meregate” grew up around it. The present building dates from 1124, evolving as churches do over the years. I t contains a number of fine monumental brasses, dating from 1431, commemorating the many notable people buried beneath St John’s chancel floor.
1892 T C Lewis, Margate Photo C Jilks
The organ of 1892 is by T C Lewis and is a fine 3-manual and pedal instrument, which retains its original high quality case. There are distinctive spotted metal pipes set on fine wood carving in the choir, allowing unrestricted tonal egress, and, on its side case, facing down the north aisle, beautifully painted and decorated wooden pedal pipes. Some restoration work may have been under- taken by Henry Willis, who took over the company of T C Lewis following the First World War, then further work by F H Browne in 1959, 1989 and finally 2013, when a pedal chest was restored.
We were welcomed by their organist of twenty-three years, KCOA member David Lammler, who outlined the his- tory of the organ and the church for us. David had agreed to give a short recital, but first invited us to enjoy tea. This was a splendid affair with the St John’s ladies constantly and copiously refilling our cups, and producing further cakes and goodies until we were utterly full, a delightful, if gargantuan, tea.
David’s recital was wide ranging, starting with the theme from the film, ‘2001: a Space Odyssey’, then Crown Imperial by Walton, Benedictus from The Armed Man by Carl Jenkins, Pavane by Fauré, and, finally, “Hooked on Gershwin”, David’s own arrangement of music by George Gershwin, opening wit h Rhapsody in Blue, with its glissando clarinet introduction through countless further songs and melodies including Summertime, Fascinating Rhythm and many more. The arrangement finished with a return to the closing phrases of Rhapsody in Blue interwoven with other Gershwin cadences. It was a formidable and inventive performance, David’s indomitable playing capturing the full essence of the music with verve and vitality.
David exhibited every tonal nuance of the organ, with its sumptuous Swell strings, clear flutes, rich Lewis diapasons and bright crisp reeds; for some, there seemed to be a hint of Willis in the organ, especially the Choir clarinet, revealing something of a Willis corno de bassetto in character. David’s playing was a hard act to follow, but with such a fine organ members found the instrument quite irresistible.
The organ’s specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 1v 8 4; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 111 16 8 8 4: Choir Organ, 8 8 4 22/3 2 13/5 11/3 8; Pedal Organ, 32 16 16 16 8 8 4 16 16, with usual couplers.
1892 T C Lewis side case, Margate Photo C Jilks
1892 T C Lewis organ chancel case, Margate Photo C Jilks
TENTERDEN, with its busy bustling tree-lined High Street, remains one of the most attractive towns in the Kentish Weald. As well as its shops and imposing 13th century Parish Church of St Mildred, there is the Kent & East Sussex Railway, which terminates at Tenterden. Some members, arriving early, could take the opportunity to enjoy Tenterden Town station, which is a picture of Edwardian delight, its cream and brown signal box and platforms clothed in bil- lowing smoke and steam mingling with autumn mists as the engines were ready- ing themselves and their carriages for the morning trip to Bodiam.
However, the first church and organ of our visit on 18 October was at Rolvenden. Leaving Tenterden, with the sun breaking through a storm-tossed sky, touching Kent’s autumn colours, we rattled over the railway tracks at Rolvenden Station’s level crossing, travelling the short distance to the centre of Rolvenden, with its clean white-painted weather-boarded houses and 13th century Parish Church of St Mary, standing indomitably at its centre, bestowing a timeless air on this quintessential English village.
Following a greeting from our President, we were welcomed to St Mary’s by Bill Ives, the renowned and prolific composer who publishes under the name Grayston Ives, known to us all. Bill enjoys the organ and plays for services twice a month; however, for a more detailed description, he introduced us to Peter Wells, the local organ builder who has cared for the organ for many years. Peter spoke of the origins of this intriguing two-manual and pedal instrument, which was built by Timothy Russell in 1826 and is set on a west gallery with an imposing case, which features on our Journal cover. I t was originally a one-manual organ of ten stops being subsequently rebuilt and enlarged by Bevington in 1881. F H Browne & Sons carried out work twice during the 20th century, most recently in 1977, when a bell gamba disappeared and the Swell mixture was recast. Peter Wells carried out further work in 1995, moving the Swell’s over-strident Browne mixture, with some sensitive tonal regulation, to the Great, and installing a more suitable mixture in the Swell, returning the organ nearer to its original tonal colour. He also added a Schalmei and a Trombone on the Pedal, and carried out a restoration of the manual tracker action and electric pedal action. The organ’s specification is now: Great Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 13/5 11 8; Swell Organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 11 8 8; Pedal Organ, 16 16 8 4 16 4 with usual couplers.
Peter demonstrated the organ for us with Festival Trumpet Tune by David German, allowing us to hear the varied organ timbres reflecting the organ’s evolving periods. I t has a rich, yet unforced, early English sound, the Great organ’s diapasons and flutes still retaining Timothy Russell’s gentle voicing, although the more recent pedal trombone can be a little intimidating. The organ was then made available for members to explore, its flutes, diapasons, and balanced mixtures gracing a variety of styles. We heard some particularly enjoyable Bach, Prelude in B minor BW V544 played by our new member, Meurig Watts, who also played John Stanley’s Prelude and Bell Allegro arranged with pedals: Meurig, now living at Whitstable, is from Wales.
Timothy Russell 1826 brass name plate, St. Mary's Rolvenden Photo C Jilks
Returning to Tenterden, and its Parish Church of St Mildred, KCOA member and the Organist and Director of Music, Mike Freer, was waiting to introduce the organ to us. Alas, our President, Nicholas King, had been delayed, together with our Treasurer, Kevin Grafton, by an escaped football smashing their car’s windscreen, the referee’s name and address being duly taken before they continued.
Tentyerden Twon Station, Kent & East Sussex Railway Photo C Jilks
Consequently, Deputy President, Colin Jilks, called members to order to allow Mike to welcome us and describe the organ before improvising on the organ’s different departments, and playing Finale from Saint-Saëns Organ Symphony. This 19th century organ was originally built by F Russell in 1816, then later rebuilt by Atterton in 1879. The organ has subsequently been moved to a number of different positions in the church and is now finally tucked away in the south transept, which has influenced the rebuilds of 1951 and 1991 by F H Brown & Sons. As well as providing a new detached electric console, the organ’s wind pressures have been raised and tonal changes made in an endeavour to allow the organ some presence in the nave, resulting in a somewhat strident late Victorian tone. Nevertheless, now balanced with 20th century mixtures and crisp clean reeds, its overall tonal colour, if appearing to work particularly hard, does have some success in reaching the congregation in the nave. Its specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 22/3 2; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 111 8 8 Tremulant; Pedal Organ, 16 16 8 4, with usual couplers including Swell sub octave and super octave.
With the arrival of our President we were pleased to hear Tenterden’s Organ Scholar, Matthew Nicholls, before the organ was made available for members to play. Because of a few problems at the church, tea was an emergency arrangement thoughtfully provided by our President, with cups of tea, packets of sandwiches and biscuits available. Thankfully, no one went home hungry, and it concluded an enjoyable and absorbing visit to the Weald of Kent. For our President, Nicholas King, the day had been particularly poignant, as it would have been his parents’ 67th wedding anniversary; they had been married at St Mary’s Church, Rolvenden, to the day and the very hour that he greeted us there, and he was baptised there.
F. Russell 1816, Atterton Fry 1879, F H Browne 1991, Tenterden St. Mildred Photo C Jilks
St Mary's Church, Rolvenden
By Colin Jilks
THE two-manual and pedal organ of 1826 by Timothy Russell at Rolvenden was originally built as a one-manual instrument of ten stops, which was subsequently rebuilt and enlarged by Bevington in 1881. The original case, with its three towers and two flats, reflects English organ cases of the early eigh- teenth century, although it has been somewhat compromised by Bevington’s addition of a set of pedal pipes each side requiring the case to be extended beyond its side towers, lending the case something of a battleship heaviness in appearance.
The three towers are topped with crowns of imperial splendour, their proportions making an early nineteenth century style statement, which would have appeared even more imposing on the original 1826 case. Together with its conventional Great diapason pipe flats and simple pipe shades, the case would have been among one of the last of its genre, a style that had endured for over a hundred and fifty years. With the advent of the new Victorian style, in the mid 1830s, organ cases were taken into the realms of pipe rack design, with their stencilled and painted front pipes, that were to endure ubiquitously for another hundred years.
The addition of the pedal reeds to the left of the organ is, perhaps, the final twentieth-century insult in visual design, although it must be said, in fairness, that the organ builder responsible had envisaged that the organ’s gallery would be enlarged, allowing the organ to be brought forward and all pedal pipes of the organ housed out of sight behind the central case, allowing the side case extensions to be removed, returning the organ to a visual delicacy of design not seen for over a hundred years.
Organ, Rolvenden Photo C
Alas, it is doubtful that monies or the inclination will be forthcoming in our twenty-first century, as the deficiencies and intricacies of the organ case design are, to some extent, camouflaged by the poor church lighting, which totally ignores the organ, set high and out of sight in its west end gallery. The photograph on our front cover was taken using a twenty second time exposure, with the camera on a secure tripod, revealing more than can be seen with the naked eye, although it is interesting to display the instrument’s true details, history and idiosyncrasies.
7th July 1931 - 2nd August 2014
IT IS with great regret that we record the death of our member, Desmond Harvey, who until recently was organist of St. Peter-in-Thanet, where he arranged a visit for the KCOA in October 2007, and was frequently seen at our meetings.
He grew up in London and went to St. Marylebone Grammar School and London University and worked for most of his life in the automation industry, and was with George Kent for 25 years. Here he was involved in the petro-chemical industry and travelled extensively in Europe, S.E. Asia, Japan and the USA. For five years he was export manager for Compaire Maxam and Climax, France. Finally, for 15 years Desmond was MD of West Hyde Developments, a specialised electronics company in Aylesbury.
Throughout his life Desmond was a very active and respected organist and choirmaster, and was for six years at Albury Parish Church, seven years at All Saints’, Luton, 12 years at Wilmslow Parish Church, playing regularly at Manchester Cathedral, followed by 26 years at Aylesbury Parish Church.
We will remember him as Organist and Choirmaster at St. Peter-in-Thanet, where he spent 13 years and built up the choir to a high standard, and arranged many prestigious organ recitals. Upon retirement he was called upon to play at various churches in the Thanet area including St. George’s Ramsgate, and continued to play regularly at the Eglise Française at Canterbury Cathedral.
Just before his untimely death he had agreed to be O&C of St. Andrew’s Church while a suitable appointment was made. Desmond was looking forward to this, but sadly it was not to be.
Desmond Harvey Photo Jean Saunders
A Service of Thanksgiving for his life was held on 15th August at St. Andrew’s Church, Reading Street, Broadstairs, at which the KCOA was represented. The officiant was The Rev’d Philip Musendi, and Adrian Perkins was the organist who played the Prelude and Fugue in B minor BWV 544 by J S Bach before the service. Desmond had chosen the music which was sung by the combined choirs of St. Andrew’s and St. Peter-in-Thanet. The hymns were All my hope on God is founded, Come down, O love divine, Lord of the years your love has kept and guided, and the anthem was Blessed be the God and Father by S.S. Wesley. The exit music, by John Rutter, was The Lord bless you and keep you. The service was followed by a private committal at Thanet Crematorium.
We offer our sincere condolences to Jean, his children and grandchildren and their families in their sad loss.
by Nigel C B Durrant
THE IAO Annual Congress in 2014 was based at Durham, in the erst- while Saxon kingdom of Northumbria (where the Synod of Whitby was convened in 664). For the first time, the participants were not all housed under one roof; some stayed in the Radisson Blu Hotel while others had chosen more modest student accommodation belong- ing to St. Chad’s College. We were therefore separated at mealtimes; while there could be no complaints about the catering (although once again there was no traditional ale on offer), as by far the greater number of delegates do not see one another from one Congress to at least the next the traditional après-ski atmosphere (the metaphor not entirely inappropriate considering the local topography) during and after meals was at a low ebb. The convivial shop-talk in spontaneously formed small groups following each day’s proceedings did take place, but not on the same scale as in other years. It would appear that there are more changes afoot about which doubts were raised at the AGM.
On Monday, 28 July we congregated in the cathedral for Choral Evensong sung by the strong treble voices of the combined boy and girl cathedral choristers and the Chorister School’s Gallery Choir, the whole service being sung in unison while I.A.O. President Canon Dr. James Lancelot accompanied on the organ, affording us our first opportunity to revel in Harrison’s 20” wind-pressure French Horn stop being put to effective use. Christopher Totney’s Durham Service was probably new to all of us and it was strange to hear the preces intoned by a choirboy. And so to wine and, later, dinner. There were noticeably fewer delegates than in past years.
On Tuesday morning we went to Brancepeth, where the 1,000-year-old St. Brandon’s church had been ravaged by fire in 1998. As a result of this, 100 medieval tombstones and, in the belfry, a 17th century clock, presently displayed in the interior, were discovered. The organ was also a victim but has been replaced by a delightful 3-manual Willis of ca. 1870, restored in 2005 by Harrison & Harrison. Harrison’s Mark Venning gave us a potted history of the instrument, from which the cathedral’s assistant organist, David Ratnanayagam, then produced appropriately English sounds in Parry and S.S. Wesley as well as well-chosen 19th century French and German repertoire and Buxtehude. Surely most of us would never otherwise hear (or hear of) this instrument! Then we arrived late at St. George’s, Gateshead (passing Antony Gormley’s Angel of the North on the way) for a virtuoso performance by Francesca Massey that included Oskar Lindberg’s G minor sonata and York Bowen’s op. 136 Fantasia, also in G minor. Here again, Mark Venning was on hand to provide details of the instrument. Our next venue was St. Mary’s Roman Catholic cathedral in Newcastle, which has associations with Kent as it was designed by Augustus Pugin. Recitalist was Magnus Williamson, who did not play Byrd or Gibbons (as I would have expected) but Max Reger’s Straf mich nicht preceded by de Grigny, Buxtehude and Bruhns. His programme – the Brereton recital – sounded well on the Kenneth Tickell organ, built in 2013. On arrival we observed silence for the builder, who had died suddenly just a few days previously. It seemed strange to me that at the end of this first full day there were only two other organs on the official programme, though there was still plenty to whet our appetites. The second appearance of Francesca Massey on Wednesday, this time in a different guise, would have been a frankly enervating experience were it not for Miss Massey’s admirable qualities as a tutor. A regular feature of Congress is a masterclass; this year there were two. We were reminded that there was once ‘another Durham organ- builder’ and at Elvet Methodist church were introduced to an H.J. Nelson opus originally dating from 1934. Miss Massey quickly discovered that the two candidates’ pieces could only be considered as work in progress rather than the expected prepared repertoire and that she would therefore limit herself to the correction of flaccid rhythms and the (sometimes embarrassingly long) gaps between phrases in music by Howells and Franck. She tactfully pointed the difficulties out but made it clear that it is always the player’s responsibility and not his teacher’s to iron them out: unequivocally an object lesson for all who teach.
In the afternoon a number of local organs were made available for delegates to visit and play. (As I had arrived early in Durham to get the lie of the land I gave this a miss and visited the university’s Oriental Museum instead.) After an early dinner we arrived, despite heavy traffic, at the cathedral in time for an RCO 150th Anniversary Celebratory Recital given today by James Lancelot that included, once again, an instructive ‘overview’ of the organ by Mark Venning, before a stunning Reubke Sonata on the 94th Psalm that surely fully demonstrated the monumental instrument. On winged feet we snaked our way back through the drizzle and to bed.
Durham, Willis/Harrison Photo Durham Cathedral
Our coaches took us on Thursday morning to the Teesdale market town of Barnard Castle (affording us a glimpse of its fanciful Butter Market from 1747) with its French château-like Bowes Museum where James Lancelot demonstrated a recently restored 1820s John Waite piano in three of Schumann’s Waldszenen. The enchanting sounds of ‘what was probably a ladies’ instrument’ (because of its delicate tone) filled the music-room replete with atmospheric domestic paintings to perfection. After lunch we followed a picturesque route to Hexham Abbey (the coach-driver was given a round of applause for his negotiation of a seemingly impossible narrow U- turn). The second masterclass of the week was led by Dame Gillian Weir, in which three exemplary candidates performed their carefully prepared music by de Grigny and Bach and gave us some idea of the 1974 classically inspired two- manual organ. Particularly impressive was Jack Spencer’s neat playing of Bach’s first and third ‘Leipzig’ Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’ preludes which displayed a mature natural musicianship based on careful phrasing. But in my personal opinion Dame Gillian’s style of teaching (not lacking today in a modicum of sexual innuendo) would have been more efficacious without 100+ observers. Yes; we must push the keys right down to let the pipes speak and 99% of practice might well be in the mind, but there was much that I found frankly debatable. ‘Throw the metronome away,’ she advised the candidates; ‘tempo is relative; what is vital is rhythm.’ Much to set us all thinking, certainly, but we went away without being given the opportunity of forming a realistic impression of the Laurence Phelps organ.
It was odd that the annual dinner was held on the penultimate evening. Guest speaker was RCO President Catherine Ennis, who shared her dream of extended collaboration between the IAO and the RCO, wittily introduced us to some obscure saints and gave a creditable vocal impression of the Duke of Edinburgh. (A right royal occasion, considering the Bowes Museum in the morning?) She ended by saying that she wanted to break away from the image of organists as ‘dodgy raincoat-wearing old men’ – surely few would disagree here!
On the Wednesday we had heard an informal talk in St. Chad’s (covered-in) courtyard by Neil Collier of Priory Records about the development of DVD recordings. He brought a large selection of (CD) recordings for sale and it was probably as well that there were no facilities for paying with plastic! On the last day we returned there for the R.C.O. lecture, lucidly delivered by Nicholas Thistlethwaite, with the title (as printed in the delegates’ handbook) Cantibus orga- nis or how did the organ become an accompa- nimental instrument? Dr. Thistlethwaite began his exposition with an erudite discussion of the usage of some medieval continental organs and continued by way of English consort songs in the second half of the 16th century to the addition of a manual ‘with wooden flutes to sing to’ to English organs some decades later. We then walked to our coaches, which took us a few miles for a tour of the Harrison & Harrison factory. Needless to say, there was much to interest all of us in both these forays.
Congress had begun with Choral Evensong in Durham cathedral and ended similarly, though with a significant difference. In 2014, for the first time, delegates were invited to form a choir. Turnout was good and, despite a seeming superabundance of male voices, James Lancelot coaxed an enviably well-balanced and robust sound out of the volunteers. ‘Mag and Nunc’ were dear old Walmisley in D minor; the anthem, Bruckner’s Locus iste and before the service we heard Benedictus by William Lloyd Webber. Organist on this occasion was Ian Hare, thoroughly enjoying himself and signing Congress off with Herbert Howells’ Paean.
A word of gratitude and praise is due to the KCOA.’s Rob Miller for his successfully completed first term as Congress Administrator.
ORGANS USUALLY start their life on a sheet of paper as a plan drawn to show how the various soundboards, action and pipework are to fit into the space allocated for the instrument. The next stage is to decide on the basic acoustic architecture of the instrument and the various stops needed to achieve this are decided upon. Some organs stay in this original state for many years and there are many examples of, usually small organs by Willis, Lewis and others that still remain in original condition.
Other instruments seem to be subjected to a constant round of overhauls, enlargements, revoicings and action changes. This all too often leaves an instrument that produces an incoherent sound with parts of the pipework so inaccessible that tuning is not possible at all. Eventually, if money allows, there may be a rationalisation of the instrument which involves, in effect, a rebuild of the entire instrument, with the exception of the actual pipes. This course has been followed at Rochester (by Manders) and at Great Malvern (by Nicholsons).
Our trip to Bury St Edmunds, in May, should show us an example of both types of instrument. St. Mary’s church is a very large building most of which dates from the late 13th century. The organ is a massive instrument of 4 manuals and 74 speaking stops. Its last major overhaul was in 1959 (by Compton), but an examination of the various organ builders brass plates to be found here and there show that the instrument has been worked on by quite a number of organ building firms.The impression that the organ has been added to piecemeal is backed up by a look at the rear of the pipework, which seems rather chaotic. The action is electro pneumatic and the specification is overgenerous, for example there are four open diapasons on the Great. I t should be very interesting to find out what it actually sounds like.
The cathedral, just a few hundred yards down the road, was St James’ Church until 1959. The building work to convert it to its new cathedral status was completed around the millennium. The style of the building is Gothic revival. Inside everything seems brand spanking new and it is a very attractive interior. The organ is almost new (Harrison 2010) and is therefore in its original state. The action is electro-pneumatic. Harrison & Harrison have stayed with their familiar electro-pneumatic action and have not followed Kenneth Tickell with his all-electric action at Worcester. The organ has 59 stops and manages with only two open diapasons on the Great. The sound of this instrument should show us how 21st century Harrison organs will sound. This may possibly give us some clues as to the sound of the new organ for Canterbury.
For those members of KCOA whose primary interest is not the actual organs, Bury St Edmunds is an interesting town with a Saturday market. Mary Tudor, sister of Henry VIII, was buried in the abbey; her tomb is now to be found in St Mary’s church. A notable feature of St Mary’s is the magnificent hammer-beam roof. Called the ‘Angel Roof’ it features life-size wooden carved angels supporting the upper
parts of the structure.
by David Shuker
THE REFORMAT I O N of the Church in England during the sixteenth century resulted in the almost total disappearance of organs. In many parish churches it was almost two centuries before organs were reinstalled, by which point the liturgical role of music was quite different. From a situation around 1750 when few parish churches had organs the following hundred years saw organs being installed in the majority of churches. However, from the mid- nineteenth century onwards almost all medieval parish churches were rebuilt or restored and this resulted in a further upheaval in the history of church organs. Most notably, the removal of west galleries, which had become a favoured site for organs when they replaced church bands, resulted in organs being moved to chambers in chancels. Added to this was the Victorian predilection for improvement which saw many organs rebuilt and enlarged, or completely replaced. In many cases there is little or no physical trace of late eighteenth or early-nineteenth century organs and such information as survives comes from a range of sources, with often next to nothing in church records themselves.
One source of information that covers the entire country is the collection of notes made by Sir Stephen Glynne (1807- 1874). Glynne was the brother-in-law of that giant of Victorian politics, W E Gladstone.
Sir Stephen Glynne Photo Public Domain
Whereas Gladstone could captivate vast open-air meetings with grand oratory, Glynne was a shy retiring bachelor who devoted his life to antiquarian pursuits. He is thought to have visited over 5,000 churches in Great Britain during his lifetime and made careful notes of key architectural features but also noted the presence of bells and organs. Of the 160 notebooks that Glynne filled with details of his visits a number have been edited for publication. Happily for Kent historians, Glynne’s notes for churches in the county were edited for publication by his nephew, William Henry Gladstone, eldest son of the ‘Grand Old Man’ and himself interested in church music. Notes on Churches in Kent was published in 1877 by John Murray and copies can often be found in second-hand bookshops – my copy once graced the shelves of Battersea District Library and the issue record shows that it was only lent out once – in 1975.
Notes on Churches in Kent is concerned only with visits to surviving pre- Reformation churches and this represents no less than 312 buildings (but even so was not comprehensive). Glynne made most of his visits in Kent prior to 1840 but sometimes returned years later when restoration work had been carried out. Glynne’s observations on organs are not detailed but they are interesting because in many cases the instruments were the first to be installed post Reformation. Furthermore, contrary to received wisdom, the parish churches of the late- Georgian Church of England were full to bursting and were frequently fitted with single or double tiers of galleries, with an occasional triple tier at the west end if space permitted. Organs were frequently sited on west galleries where they had come to replace the earlier parish bands and choirs. However, Glynne himself was a keen supporter of the Ecclesiology movement and often noted with some approval the removal of galleries on second visits.
Of the 312 Kent churches visited by Glynne, 92 were recorded as possessing an organ. Surprisingly, there is no mention of the two Samuel Green organs with their splendid Gothic cases in both Canterbury and Rochester cathedrals but it would appear that the architectural riches of these buildings were the main focus of attention. Some of the larger parish churches – such as Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Folkestone, Chatham, Bromley and Maidstone – had notable instruments, and a few of the smaller churches (e.g. Ditton) had chamber organs that usually came from the home of a local benefactor , while a number of other churches had barrel organs. Of the 22 early barrel organs noted by Glynne, none appear to have survived. Perhaps this is not surprising as barrel organs dropped out of favour from about 1850 onwards and were replaced by ‘finger’ organs. Interestingly, the one surviving Kent barrel organ – the T C Bates instrument that was firstly at Meopham in 1855 and then at Trottiscliffe from 1865 onwards – was not recorded by Glynne. The quaint phrase ‘finger organ’ was cur- rent between about 1750 and 1850 when it was necessary to distinguish it from t he not uncommon barrel organ. Occasionally an organ ‘which can be played either with keys or barrels’ was encountered (Westerham).
1796 Samuel Greenat Dusseldorf Photo Klais
With notable exceptions, such as Stone, few of the pre-Reformation churches that Stephen Glynne visited in the first half of the nineteenth century remain as they were then. Even fewer of the organs that Glynne saw have survived in any form. St Peter and St Paul, Milton near Gravesend, is one of the few churches to have retained its galleries with an organ in the west gallery. Of the fine eighteenth-century organ cases recorded by Glynne the 1753 Richard Bridge case at St Mary of Charity in Faversham survives but with a much rebuilt organ behind it, and the 1798 Avery case at St Nicholas Sevenoaks serves only as a dumb façade in front of office space. Happily, the ‘good organ’ by Samuel Green (1796) seen by Glynne in 1852 at St Mary Chatham was moved to Dusseldorf and restored to its former glory on a gallery by Orgelbau Klais in 2013 after the church closed.
A table giving details of all the organs recorded by Sir Stephen Glynne in his Notes on Kent Churches (1877) can be found on the KCOA website at www.kcoa.co.uk
EVERY time the organ-builder visits the convent where I am organist I rejoice in his sapience. Not only is he fully competent – most professional organ- builders in The Netherlands are – but he speaks fluently and discourses eloquently about calamities, catastrophes, churches, clergy (catholic and protestant), colleagues (his and mine) as well as the construction techniques used by 19th-century organ- builders (order alphabetical). One topic flows seamlessly into another and some of the monks listen in carefully and even join knowledgeably in our conversations. At his most recent visit they even helped to elucidate his theme. He told me that the Augustinuskerk in Amsterdam is shortly to be closed.
Now the Amsterdam St. Augustine’s is rather odd in that it has nothing to do with the town’s parish of St. Augustine; the church is in fact in a care centre for the elderly in the Emmaus parish. What interested us was that a very serious attempt is being made to keep the organ in Amsterdam where it has been since 1881. This instrument is one of the very few Cavaillé-Coll organs in The Netherlands. With eight speaking stops on each of its two manuals it is too powerful for the space it now occupies, having been built for the original – larger – church and moved to its present location in 1979. The four pedal stops are transmissions (and let’s not forget the effet d’orage - storm). In my Notes in 2006 I mentioned that the renovation of a fully- fledged symphonic Cavaillé-Coll organ, originally built for Amsterdam and resited in Haarlem, had been completed. When this organ was inaugurated (in 1875) it was considered, despite being played by Alexandre Guilmant, anything but a success. One poetically-minded pundit went so far in his published doggerel as to suggest that the general con- sensus was that it should merely ‘stand in silence’. Such instruments were unfamil iar and to Dutch audiences seemed to burble in a foreign tongue. How did they get here?
A French diplomat named Charles- Marie Philbert who served in The Netherlands between 1849 and 1887 quickly became a pillar of the country’s musical life, having received a Jesuit education in which the arts played a significant role. He was especially interested in the organ and had worked for Cavaillé- Coll (though no details of his time there seem to have been preserved) before taking up his diplomatic tasks. He became a respected figure amongst musicians though Dutch organists showed little interest in the French musical culture that he tried to cultivate. Aristide Cavaillé-Coll had made a short visit earlier to see and hear Dutch organs and to visit the eminent Bätz workshops: he was not particularly impressed, finding our organ-building thorough but uninventive. Even after the Dutch firm had paid a reciprocal visit to the French factory and had enthusiastically incorporated some of Cavaillé-Coll’s ideas into its own work Dutch organists showed no real interest. I t seems reasonable that Cavaillé-Coll was anxious to provide us with a representative example of his work and when a new glass exhibition hall (inspired by the Crystal Palace) was being constructed in Amsterdam, Philbert grabbed the opportunity to suggest the inclusion of a French organ by the Parisian master. This came about when the organ now in Haarlem was erected. But, as intimated above, Philbert’s ploy met with lit tle general acceptance.
There is in the centre of Amsterdam a peaceful Béguinage (‘Begijnhof’) in whose church another small organ by Cavaillé- Coll has stood since 2010. Built in 1879, the instrument with six full and two half- compass ranks and pedal pull-downs was moved here after a fire had irreparably damaged the keyboard and much of the case and pipework. Adema’s Kerkorgelbouw that had been caring for the instrument for some years was responsible for its restoration and successful partial reconstruction. The two organs still in Amsterdam are however hardly representative of the work we expect from Cavaillé-Coll (who incidentally proposed a gargantuan organ for St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome with, if I didn’t lose count halfway, 119 stops. The Vatican did not reply).
A more characteristic example of the builder’s work is to be seen and regularly heard in the Walloon church in The Hague (for which it was built in 1885) with two manuals and (partly) independent pedal with appels and renvois. Four years later Cavaillé-Coll produced a catalogue, Orgues de tous modèles, for the Paris Exposition Universelle from which clients could choose the external appearance of their organ. The organ here is outwardly similar to a popular design for the builder’s organs in French churches with the addition of an extension to each side without any pipework in the façade. A treble cornet was added to the 18 original stops during the restoration by S.F. Blank in 1984 with Henk Kooiker, then, as now, organist to the church as adviser.
This, in a nutshell, is the extent of the work carried out in The Netherlands by this illustrious French manufacturer of top-class organs. Since 1971 there has been an organ by this company in the Sionskerk, Nunspeet in the Dutch Bible Belt, an instrument that was built for an exhibition in 1876 and then acquired by the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer in Antwerp.
Visitors to Haarlem with an interest in organ trivia however may usefully wend their way to the excellent Teylers Museum where they will find an example of a soufflerie de précision with 12 organ pipes and a miniature keyboard, dating from 1875. Study the contents of the showcase containing this lit tle contrap- tion carefully (but don’t try to touch!) and you will probably come away knowing more about stabilized wind supplies and musical temperament than you can ever use. Who built this scientific gubbins – but, interestingly, not the pipes? You’ve got it: Aristide Cavaillé-Coll.
A short profile
FOR the vast majority of people living in Britain at the time, 1954 was an auspicious year: Roger Bannister ran the first four-minute mile, food rationing finally ended, and the BBC first broadcast Dylan Thomas’ long awaited play for voices, Under Milk Wood, with the mel-lifluous, velvet tones of Richard Burton reading the opening lines describing “a small town, starless and bible-black”, where “the houses are as blind as moles”, and “you can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing”.
Janet Hughes Photo C Jilks
Alas, Janet can have no memory of these events as she was not born until 17th April that year, at Hastings in Victoria, Australia, some thirty miles south of Melbourne, on the Mornington Peninsular, where her father was a Royal Navy exchange officer working for the Australian Navy. She confesses she has no memory of the antipodes, her first recollections being of Portsmouth after her family moved back to England from Australia when Janet was only twenty months old.
Janet Mary Hughes (neé Des Clayes) has an intriguing family history. In France, in 1360, there was a Château des Clayes near Saint Cyr, northeast of Paris, of which there are still two turrets left standing, which may have been owned by her ancestors, although her family links are a little tenuous. Nevertheless, her great-grandfather was unquestionably born a Frenchman, but moved to Aberdeen, where her grandfather was born. His work in the cotton trade resulted in Janet’s father being born in Egypt, but registered as a British Citizen: likewise, Janet has always been British.
Her father’s naval career took the family (with two, and subsequently three brothers) to Portsmouth, Greenwich, Malta, Plymouth, Chesham, near London, and finally back to Devon. Musical training started in the three idyllic years while Janet was at primary school in Malta. There was no piano, but with encouragement from her flute-playing father, and a musical aunt, on her mother’s side, who came to stay, there was a xylophone and recorder, together with manuscript for composing. Then, once back in England, aged nine, piano lessons started, and although her first teacher was not a success, she settled happily with the next. Her father conducted the chapel choir at the Royal Naval Engineering College, Manadon, Plymouth, and Janet was soon singing alto in the choir – useful early training for sight-singing, if not for the voice!
After a year at the Tavistock Comprehensive School in Devon, Janet went as a boarder to St Mary’s School, Calne in Wiltshire. Piano lessons continued, and, at the end of the first year, aged 13, she had to submit a project of her choice. She chose to compose a book of songs, and it was this that led the school to suggest that she do music “O” level and take up the viola. Without it her musical career would probably never have happened. After taking “O” levels a year early she studied music, French and German at “A” level. I t was the first term of sixth form that, rather inexplicably, as she had had no interest in it before, she suddenly became interested in the organ. I t might have had something to do with an excellent organist called Keith Warner coming to the local Parish Church, Buckland Monachorum, in Devon where the family were now attending services and singing in the choir. St Mary’s School would not allow her to learn a third instrument, so lessons and most practising were restricted to the school holidays, when a good two hours were spent at the organ each week day.
Much to her chagrin, the family moved to Chesham in Buckinghamshire the following summer, but a good teacher, David Grant, gave her lessons at nearby Boxmoor, entering her for organ classes of music festivals in Aylesbury and Watford which she won, and then for the organ scholarship at Girton College, Cambridge. Seeing the surprise of her school headmistress on opening the envelope offering her the organ scholarship was a moment to treasure.
The three years at Girton were perhaps not the best to be there. During her second year the old Harrison organ was being replaced by a Johnson pipe organ, which in turn, has already been replaced; but the music-making – singing, playing the viola in the CUMS, participating in numerous concerts and recitals – was wonderful. Most organ lessons were with Peter Hurford, and during that time she gained the ARCO. After a PGCE year at Exeter, she taught at a boy’s school, St Boniface’s College, Plymouth, and sang in the choir at St Andrew’s, the main Anglican Church in Plymouth, also giving an organ recital there. After one year she took up the position of “Organist and Choir Director” at St Michael’s Burton Park, Petworth, which was a girls’ boarding school, and while there, passed the FRCO. Realising after three years she was in danger of spending most of her life in a boarding school, and attracted by the sports facilities, she escaped to a Short Service (six years) Commission in the WRAF, as an Air Traffic Control Officer, continuing her music as a hobby. It was in a choir she founded that she got to know Brin – her husband to be – living in the same wing as her in the Officers’ Mess, and they married on his leaving the RAF in 1986.
Janet then became a class music teacher at St Mary’s School, Wantage, but after she had been there only five weeks, Brin was offered a job at NATO HQ, Brussels, so after one term of teaching, she left for the move to Brussels, mean- while gaining the piano teachers’ LRAM. What had been a one-year contract in Belgium rolled on and then metamor-phosed into other contracts, keeping the couple happily in Brussels for nearly twenty years, While there Janet met Jean Ferrard, at that time Professor of the Organ at the Liège Conservatoire, and took up the offer of a place as a free student in his organ class, continuing for nearly four years and gaining the Diplôme Supérieur. An excellent teacher, he organized study trips to Pönitz in East Germany, Lyon, Dole and Paris, including Ste Sulpice. Janet was the organist at the Anglican Pro-Cathedral in Brussels for three years, before moving on to the Scottish Presbyterian Church as Director of Music. She was also the rehearsal pianist and organist for the multi-national Brussels Choral Society, playing for performances in Brussels, Moscow (Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory), Budapest and elsewhere, becoming particularly experienced at playing for the Mass by Joseph Jongen, which had been discovered by the choir’s conductor, Tom Cunningham.
OUR TREASURER, Kevin Grafton, made the headlines at Tenterden on our visit in October.
Fortunately, the publicity finally brought the football club to an amicable agreement with Kevin,
paying for his damaged windscreen.
Photographs: Cover: St. Mary's, Rolvenden Colin
Others: As marked
David Brock, Nicholas King, Brian Moore & Brinley Hughes
"THE KENT COUNTY ORGANISTS' ASSOCIATION welcomes new members with an
interest in the organ and its music. Also those who enjoy visiting churches
with an appreciation of architecture and heritage. Membership of the Association
is not based on the ability to play; we welcome equally those who enjoy
listening, as well as those who enjoy playing".