Kent County Organists’ Association
August 2001 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
A History of Organ Builders - Part Two
A job well done
A 'Royal Festival Hall' début
A visit to Cambridge
An Organist's Diary
Chevening & Knockholt
East & West Malling
Gravesend Christ Church & AGM
Review of recent Meetings
St. Leonards-on-Sea, Christ Church
St. Margaret's at Cliffe
The Friends of Cathedral Music
Review of Recent Meetings
The weather in January can surreptitiously produce the unexpected. Such was January 13th, a miraculously crisp and sunny day for our opening meeting of the year at Canterbury Cathedral. There were five fortunate members – those who had the presence of mind to book beforehand – who were able to observe choir practice taken by David Flood prior to the evensong. Other members had the crypt made available to play two of the three crypt pipe organs – after a short wait for a verger to obtain a key.
Seats had been specially reserved for KCOA members in the choir for evensong and an exciting service was in prospect:-
Responses Hendrie and Durufle
Canticles Walton Chichester Service
Anthem Videntes Stellam- Poulenc
Psalms 69 and 70
Organ Voluntary Carillon de Westminster – Vierne
The service was beautifully sung by the twenty choristers and twelve lay clerks directed by David Flood. The canticles particularly the Magnificat with voice parts interspersed with thunderous bursts from the organ, were spine tingling. This splendid evensong and organ voluntary were superbly played by Tim Noon.
Members were then permitted to play and it was good to see so many eager for the challenge. We must thank David Flood and Tim Noon for allowing us this special opportunity.
Finally, our visit concluded with a very fine tea in the new education centre, and we are grateful to Sally Bennett, the centre manager, and her trusty team for making this all possible, bringing to a close a most interesting and varied afternoon.
St. Leonards-on-Sea, Christ Church
Superlatives come to mind when writing about our meeting at Christ Church, St Leonards-on-Sea on Saturday 10th February, except for the wet and windy weather. Which superlatives to use to describe what? Magnificent lofty church, splendid music, impressive ritual and a lovely tea.
We were welcomed by the Rector, Father Richard Harper, who then handed us over to David Leeke. It should be explained that David is now the Director of Music at Shrewsbury Abbey, having left Christ Church last July to take up this appointment. Before this move was known he had agreed to arrange this meeting for us, and kindly returned to carry out this commitment.
David spoke most interestingly about the history of the music at Christ Church. The original church, on the south side of the present building, was consecrated in 1860. Two years later, a small organ was installed and Walter Goss Custurd was appointed organist and choirmaster. Thus began the long and distinguished story of music at Christ Church, which flourished when the fine new church, designed by the architect Sir Arthur Blomfield, was consecrated in 1875. Walter Goss Custard gave 43 years service to the church, retiring in 1907, and his two sons were Harry, of Liverpool Cathedral fame, and Reginald, who was organist of St. Margaret’s, Westminster. Allan Biggs became organist in 1913, and remained in office until he died suddenly in 1960. He instituted weekly organ recitals in1920, and liturgical performances of Viennese Masses, sometimes with orchestra, enhanced the musical reputation of the church.
A four manual Holdich organ of 43 stops was inaugurated in 1882, but the organ today is now a three manual instrument rebuilt and removed to the west end music gallery in 1930 by Willis. It is a very fine instrument, with comprehensive specification, as Hannah Richards showed in her splendid recital. Hannah took part in the master class at Ashford Parish Church in January 1999, when she acquitted herself with distinction, but her playing now shows considerable maturity. Her well chosen programme was:-
Nun danket alle Gott, BVW 648 J.S. Bach
Meine Seele erhebt Henn BWV 648 J.S. Bach
First Movement of Organ sonata No. 1 in F minor Mendelssohn
Prelude Op 18 No.1 Cesar Franck
Will o’ the Wisp Gordon Balch Nevin
Toccata in B minor Gigout
All aspects of the organ were explored, with some delightful solo effects, although in its present state of tuning and regulation it did not always “pull together” (See Colin Jilks’ article in our February 2001 journal) and it seemed that “the half is greater than the whole”. The light and charming Nevin piece was not familiar, and was perhaps reminiscent of Hollins. Nevin (1892 – 1943) was an American composer and was organist of churches in Pennsylvania and in Cleveland. After the recital, members had the opportunity of playing the organ.
We enjoyed a very welcome tea in the crypt before returning to the church for Solemn Evensong and Benediction. Father Harper had explained earlier that the church had been built with Anglo-Catholic ceremonial in mind, and during the service this was carried out with great dignity by priest and servers. The music, beautifully sung by The Linden Singers, directed by David Leeke and accompanied by Hannah Richards, was:-
Preces and Responses – Ayleward
Psalms 42 and 43 Chants by Day and Bennett
Canticles – Stanford in C
Anthem – I was glad – Parry
Tantum ergo – Deodat de Severac
Organ Voluntary – Gaudeamus – S.S. Campbell
The lessons were admirably read by Philip Cheetham and our President, Colin Jilks. As Gary Tollerfield remarked, “this beautiful service involved all the senses – sight, sound and smell”. We had a truly memorable afternoon.
Chevening & Knockholt
Although just within earshot of the M25 motorway, Chevening remains a picture of idyllic English tranquillity. Chevening House, with its grandiose walled grounds, stands proud over a village whose cottages and houses time seemingly forgot. St. Botolph’s , the Parish Church, with its well manicured churchyard, dates from the twelfth century and stands at the head of the village where almost opposite, snuggled against the side of a house, stood a gleaming traditional red telephone box – which, later was to assume unexpected significance. The warmth of the church’s flint and ragstone exterior was reflected within the welcome we received when we visited this historic church in March.
Church Wardens, Lela Weavers and Robert Hodges, together with their organist Jean Strudwick, warmly greeted us. Mr. Hodges spoke eloquently of the remarkable long history and quizzical quirks of the church before their organist, quite beautifully, demonstrated the organ with Sarabande by Eric H. Thiman. The organ, its case designed by W.D. Caroe, was built by Bishop Thiman and had two manuals and pedals. Its specification consisted of six Great stops, and two Pedal stops, all with tracker action. Although simple in design it had a beguiling singing tone typical of Bishops work.
Before leaving Chevening members were presented with a printed sheet containing twenty “quiz” questions, all to be enjoyed en-route to Knockholt, our next destination. Question number five was – how many telephone boxes were there between Chevening and Knockholt? This caused some debate, as the compiler of the quiz thought there was only one, but sharp-eyed members counted two; the Chevening box had been overlooked. The writer must confess to being completely baffled by most of the questions, but our astute new Secretary, Rosemary Clemence, won the quiz with sixteen correct answers and the two runners up, Andrew Cesana and Janet Tollerfield, gained fifteen and a half marks respectively.
But our visit to St Katherine’s Knockholt was to see and hear the organ. This was a two-manual and pedal instrument by Percy Daniel of 1934 which was divided at the West End of the church with its recently electrified console sited between the Swell and Great sections. Although the organ had been fully restored by Martin Cross, the tuning of the instrument did seem to lack cohesion. However the individual ranks had a fine quality of sound and, to members’ great interest a Sub Bass 32ft stop which gave true 32ft tone down to pedal bottom G. This proved very effective in this comparatively small church. Our member, Barbara Childs, gave us a wonderfully engaging and musical demonstration recital, which showed the organ’s full potential.
Liebster Jesu J.S. Bach
Priere a Notre Dame L Boellman
Hornpipe Humoresque N Rawsthorne
Toccatina for the Flutes P. Yon
Nun Dankett Allie Gott Karg-Elert
The ladies of Knockholt provided us with a quite delicious tea, after which followed time for members to play and others to explore the church’s history. This was a memorable meeting and we must thank Barbara for not only playing but so kindly arranging much of the afternoon for us.
St Margaret’s at Cliffe
Dover’s White cliffs are an engaging spectacle for visitors on the seaward approach to Dover. However, were they able to peep around the corner to the North, as it were, they would espy St. Margaret’s Bay. Here is unspoilt English beauty, in marked contrast to Dover’s commercialisation. From the bay, with its break-watered beaches and magnificent cliffs, a narrow and steeply winding road leads up to the village of St. Margaret’s at Cliffe, perched high on the cliffs but set back safely a short distance from the sea.
Its church, dedicated to St. Margaret of Antioch, is late Norman dating form 1174, and is of exquisite beauty. Entering by the North door, one is immediately captivated by the seemingly untouched Norman architecture, in warm French stone. Its columns are massively sturdy supporting well-decorated semicircular arches, some with intriguing gargoyle faces. Through the chancel arch stretches a chancel almost equal in length to the nave. The church tower was not completed until 1190, and interestingly, features a pointed Norman arch.
Set within this arch, on a gallery, stands the organ, which was built and installed by F.. Browne & Sons in 1989. Pedal pipes can be seen either side of the main central case with its silvered front pipe display. The 2-manual and pedal stop key console is sited just below the chancel in front of the pulpit. The organ’s extensive specification is, in fact, derived from a relatively small number of ranks but is, none the less, telling in the building. The Swell organ’s 16ft-8ft-4ft reeds provide a rich topping to the diapason and flute choruses.
Following a warm welcome from Rev. Tony Durkin, Gordon H. Chapman organist of the church, gave us a tonal tour of the instrument, demonstrating the individual stops. He followed this with a movement from Handel’s Organ Concerto in B flat, admirably showing the musicality and versatility of the organ.
Following tea, we enjoyed a detailed talk on the church’s history by Alan Rudd, who is to publish a new book on this fine church later in the year. A number of members then had the opportunity to play before this most pleasant afternoon was concluded.
East & West Malling
Our meeting at East and West Malling, on 12th May, was held on a perfect early summer day, so welcome after the gloom of the winter and spring and with the countryside looking at its best. The Parish Church of St James, East Malling, stands imposingly at the end of Church Street, which contains several fine houses, and, although there has been a church here since Saxon times, parts of the present church date from the XI century.
We were welcomed by the organist, Mrs Belinda Hunter, who spoke about the history of the church and pointed out features of particular interest, including the 14th Century font, which has an unusual early 16th Century cover with doors and a cap of pierced tracery.
The Gray and Davison organ dates from 1837. It was originally in Bradbourne house, and when moved to the church stood in the Corpus Christi Chapel in the south aisle. It was moved to the West End in 1934. The casework has been altered to suit its new position. Alterations were carried out in 1974 by F. H Browne & Sons, when a new pedalboard was installed and a sesquialtera added. The swell now contains five stops and the great eight, plus a pedal bourdon. Several members played, demonstrating a full unforced diapason chorus, which sounded well in a sympathetic acoustic.
After a short drive to West Malling, past Malling Abbey, we came to the wide High Street, with its many fine Georgian Houses. The Parish Church of St Mary stands at the top of the High Street, surrounded by a fine churchyard with lovely views of the North Downs, and no indication of the M20 , which fortunately lies hidden. The church has an unusual history in that the chancel and parts of the tower are Norman, but the nave has been rebuilt twice, in 1780-2 and 1900-1.
A splendid country tea was served in the Parish Centre before we moved into the church to be welcomed by the organist, Mrs Audrey Attree. It was very disturbing to hear that a week earlier there had been an arson attack on the church. Entry had been gained through a window in the chancel, and an attempt made to set fire to the high alter and the James II Royal Arms on the West gallery. Fortunately, neither fire took hold.
The organ stands in the west gallery, and was built in 1879 by Henry Jones, of London. In the 1970s the pedal action was electrified, the pedalboard replaced and a bass flute added. Colin K Jilks & Associates have recently carried out a major restoration, which included a complete re-leathering of the bellows and the addition of a fifteenth to the pedal. The specification is now Great 8 8 8 4 4 2 8 (clarinet), Swell 16 8 8 4 11 8, Pedal 16 8 4. The West End position is ideal, and in this resonant acoustic the organ sounds bigger than it really is. Clarity is quite outstanding, aided particularly by the new pedal stop.
Stephen Davies is a former Music Scholar at Queen’s Collete, Oxford, and has studied the organ with Professor Anton Heiller at the Academy of Music in Vienna. He presented a Bach programme taken entirely from the Klavierubung III, and spoke about the spiritual aspects of Bach’s music, and the symbolism of numbers. Each piece was also described, together with the registration used.
Three settings of Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Her (Glory to God in the Highest)
Two settings of Dies sind die heil gen zehn Gebot’ (The Ten Commandments)
Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir (Out of the deep I cry to Thee – Psalm 130)
Vater unser im Himmelreich (The Lord’s Prayer)
Fugue in E flat major (which concludes the Klaviervierubung)
The organ proved to be an admirable vehicle for this music, which was so splendidly played and presented. It was a most memorable recital, and must rank among the very best which have been given for the Association over the years.
A Visit to Cambridge
Much has been written in recent years about the installation of new organs in this country by continental builders, with some taking the view that British organ builders are unfairly excluded and others welcoming the broadening of the organ scene which this brings. Our visit to Cambridge gave us the opportunity of experiencing this diversity at first hand, as we were able to hear organs build in Britain, Switzerland and Germany, without having to travel to the continent!
Cambridge was rather damp on our arrival, and our first visit was to the chapel of Pembroke College, Sir Christopher Wren’s earliest building. The organ dates from 1708, with Father Smith pipework, and was rebuilt by Mander in 1980 In this recital, Julian Collings – Senior Organ Scholar Christ’s College – played pieces by J S Bach, Vaughan Williams, Jongen and Saint-Saens, and showed that a wider range of music is possible on this organ than one might suspect from the specification – Great 9, Chaire 6, Pedal 6. Many of us will have heard Julian play at local meetings, and were much impressed by the mature standard he has now achieved.
Pembroke College organ
After lunch, we moved on to the beautiful large chapel of Trinity College to hear the 1975 Metzler played by the Senior Organ scholar, Ben Woodward. This fine organ is entirely mechanical, with only two composition pedals to the Great, and the large drawstops arranged vertically at some distance from the player, making it necessary to have two assistants to control the organ. This was all managed with aplomb in this splendidly played recital, which included a sparkling Bach Prelude and Fugue in D major, the Mozart Fantasia in F minor K608, and the Prelude from the Suite op 5 by Durufle.
To reach the chapel of Gonville and Caius College, we passed through two lovely quadrangles into a building far more intimate than Trinity but with an organ almost identical in size. It was built by Klais in 1981 and like Trinity has mechanical action but, unlike Trinity, has electric top action and the elegant console includes a full range of playing aids. The organ has been skilfully voiced to suit the rather dry acoustic, and was admirably demonstrated by the Junior Organ Scholar Tim Kennedy, in music by J S Bach, Boellmann, and Guilmant.
It is not often that one has to queue to attend a service, but this was very much the case for Evensong at King’s. The introit was I will lift up mine eyes – Ledger, the setting was the Chichester Service – Berkeley, and the anthem Vox dicentis – Naylor, with the Rose responses. It is always a wonderful experience to hear this famous choir at first hand, and the unaccompanied anthem was magnificent, but in the contemporary setting of the Magnificat the solo treble seemed insecure. The voluntary was a very fluent performance of the Finale from Vierne’s First Symphony.
Evensong was followed by an organ recital given by Stefan Engels. His technique was flawless, and he exploited the full resources of the magnificent Harrison and Harrison in masterly fashion, but his choice of music by Alain, Vierne, and Messiaen was too similar in style and lacked variety.
Germani’s Toccata for Organ concluded the recital in a different mood.
Our grateful thanks are due to Garry Tollerfield for arranging this memorable visit and for providing the detailed itinerary, including the organ specifications. Special thanks also must be given to Julian Collings, who made all the arrangements for the private visits to the Colleges, and to the Organ Scholars who played and demonstrated their instruments so well.
Gravesend Christ Church & AGM
Attendance at our AGM was rather low, but with two new committee members elected, a new Secretary, treasurer and President, our Association continues in good hands. Our retiring Treasurer, Charles Skingle, gave us a full report of the year’s finances which are in reasonable health considering rising costs. Jackie Howard presented a written report thanking the many who had helped during her two years as Secretary and welcomed Rosemary Clemence to the secretarial post. Colin Jilks thanked the retiring officers and committee for their unstinting service to the Association and gave a resume of the past year’s meetings. After a fine tea, provided by Jackie Howard and her family (mother and her sister with her two charming little daughters) tempting members with delicious sandwiches and cakes, the afternoon concluded with an entertaining talk on the history of the church before some members played the organ.
A Job Well Done
It was some twelve years ago that Charles Skingle, our retiring treasurer was asked to collect the monies for tea at a meeting as Fred Ash, the then treasurer, was ill. He found in his innocence, and by some clever ruse of the Secretary, that he was then the new Treasurer. However over the intervening years, Charles has been unstinting in his devotion to the job and we must thank him, as he hands the reins of office to our new treasurer David Brock, for a fine job well done.
Equally, we must thank Jackie Howard for her sterling work as our Secretary over the past two years as she now passes responsibilities to our new secretary Rosemary Clemence.
by Colin Jilks
“He wore a grave expression –
like a Victorian Physician attending a hopeless case”
There is a teeniest whisper, perhaps only a soupcon of a whisper, but a whisper all the same, that there lingers a strange unexplained malady amongst organists. It’s an ailment soon revealed, should an organist play the same organ more than once.
This manifests itself in the desire, a yearning even, for that one extra stop that would, seemingly complete the organ’s specification. Such was the case of an organist at Hornchurch, Essex, who had a fine three-manual Speechly organ at his disposal, which our small team were restoring earlier this year.
The Swell organ had two had two reed stops, the ubiquitous Oboe 8ft and Cornopean 8ft, which together with a flue chorus up to mixture, gave a credible full Swell. But no, that true “English full Swell” remained elusive, leaving our organist in need of the missing 16ft reed tone to complete the ensemble.
As often in these cases, it was decided to transpose the 8ft Oboe to 16ft pitch, needing only twelve new 16ft pipes to gain the benefit of a new stop. All went well, the scaling and voicing of the new reed bass matched beautifully and, when complete, the Swell organ did indeed exhibit that full English richness. With this voicing success we had a happy organist – well almost. A problem remained which was not of his, or our own making.
In 1966, the Great Trumpet 8ft had been moved from a prominent position speaking West just over the Pedal Open Diapasons, and out into the church, to a position on the East side of the organ. This was to accommodate a new 16ft Trombone Bass, which together with the lower octaves of the Great Trumpet, provided that one extra pedal stop so desperately needed at the time to complete the pedal department. In fact it provided three new pedal reed stops playing at 16ft- 8ft- 4ft pitch.
The organist’s malady had indeed revealed itself, and although the organist of the day had gained his extra pedal stops, the full solo effect of the trumpet had been compromised. Cost was, as always, the deciding factor; twelve new 16ft reed pipes and a new twelve-note wind chest cost far less than a full compass thirty note rank, or as in this case fifty four notes.
This was something we were asked to address, if possible, without incurring too much extra cost. An increase in wind pressure can help, but not with this organ, as there was only one wind bellows for the whole organ. The pipe wind pressure was generous at four inches, so we decided to open the Trumpet reed pipes at their tuning tops to help produce more tone.
Unfortunately, when a reed pipe is opened at its top the pipe becomes sharper in pitch and the pipe must then be re-tuned at its spring.
A reed tuning spring presses on its reed tongue holding it against the shallot allowing just the right length of reed to vibrate producing the correct pitch. However, the careful original voicing of the pipe is then disturbed, as when the reed is flattened at the tuning spring a slightly longer length of reed tongue is used. Reed tongue length does not in itself cause a problem; it is the curvature of the brass reed tongue that is so important.
This curvature must be just right as it dictates the speech of the pipe. By flattening the pipe’s pitch the tongue’s curve takes its leading edge slightly further away from its shallot producing slower speech, or even a failure of the pipe to speak at all.
Each reed must be carefully regulated by stroking the underside of the reed tongue with a steel voicing tool to removed a little of the curve – a delicate task. Too much curve removed and the tongue rattles against the shallot causing a harsh note which can “fly off” speech to a stray upper harmonic, too little and the note is hesitatingly slow. With the tuning spring removed, medium sized reeds can be “stroked” without removing them from the pipe, but small reed tongues require removal form the pipe to be laid on a smooth wooden surface for recurving. Very often “interfering” with the original voicer’s curve is ineffective and it is best to flatten the reed tongue curve completely and start afresh.
As can be imagined, this all takes time and a great deal of patience. Our church at Hornchurch was a busy active church and service interruptions during our work seemed more frequent than we would have liked. We were making good progress with the Trumpet voicing, cutting and opening the tuning slots, and adjusting the reeds, when their elderly Verger shuffled into church to ask if we might take another short break, this time for a wedding blessing. He was such a kindly creaky old thing, his eyes as watery and mournful as elderly Labradors, it was difficult to take offence, yes it was time for another cup of coffee.
Break over, we were back at work with a purposeful exuberance trying to make up for lost time – perhaps a misjudgement on my part. When cutting tuning slots in hooded Trumpet pipes great care is needed. Pipe metal is comparatively soft and cuts easily with a sharp Stanley knife, unless of course it comes up against some unexpected tin solder in the pipe metal. It’s instinctive to just press the knife a little harder and give it an extra wiggle but then, without warning, it clears the solder and cuts too easily and too far.
I held the treble G Trumpet pipe cradled in the palm of my left hand as I cut its new slots and, perhaps briefly, I must have lost my presence of mind. I remember, all those years ago, being taught to hold sharp knives and chisels so they are working away from hands and body. As you have anticipated, the knife chanced upon a hard patch of tine solder and, tempted by that extra wiggle, the Stanley knife sliced through the pipe; then my hand – the soft pad just below the thumb – like butter on a warm afternoon.
Thankfully, our kindly old Labrador had hidden talents; he had been a fully qualified first-aider in the army. Looking at my badly bleeding hand, he wore a grave expression – like a Victorian physician attending a hopeless case – but his expertise with a secure bandage and getting us to the A&E at the local hospital saved the day – and me.
After the loss of much blood and some dignity, but gaining seven stitches and a tetanus jab, I was back in the organ that afternoon, determined to finish that Trumpet treble G. This had been a salutary lesson and extra time had to be arranged to fully complete the organ’s tonal finishing the following week. Good quality work takes time and patience but then, with a brighter Trumpet and a full English Swell, we do have a happy organist – but I wonder for how long?
St. Botolph’s Chevening
Jean Strudwick, who so kindly played for us on our visit to Chevening earlier this year, is wishing to reduce her commitments and consequently St. Botolph’s is seeking an Organist and Director of Music.
There is a small friendly adult choir, a 2-manual and pedal pipe organ, one Sunday morning service and a weekly choir practice.
A History of Organ Builders
by Malcolm Hall
Harrison & Harrison: The move to Durham
The year 1872 proved to be one fraught with problems for Tom Harrison, Mr T. Horridge , an auctioneer and valuer, had entered some kind of business or partnership arrangement. It is not known whether he was aware of the intention to move to Durham, but during the summer of that year Horridge gave Tom immediate notice and the factory was sold. Harrison was owed the sum of £130.00 in lieu of 6 months notice, and £75.00, being his share of the estimated profits for that same period. After considerable correspondence between the two, Tom Harrison received but £50.00 in settlement of his claim. He left Rochdale during July of the same year and took temporary accommodation at Scarborough where he was engaged in finishing the large four-manual instrument for St. Martin’s Parish Church, which had been planned and largely built at the Rochdale factory. To one correspondent, before he left, he intimated that Horridge had purchased his business and he was no longer connected with it. Letter should be addressed to “Tom Harrison, Merefield, Rochdale”. Strict instructions were given that the words “Organ Builder” were to be omitted from the envelope.
From Scarborough he was in touch with various correspondents in Durham regarding the acquisition of the new factory, as well as a home for himself and his family. Mrs. Harrison and her four children were settled at Durham during August, for a Mr. Pinder, one of the Rochdale workmen was instructed to report to Elizabeth Harrison there. Another workman, Henry Ainscough, who had worked with him since he left school, decided not to make the move ; instead he founded his own business in Preston.
In his search for a suitable workshop at Durham Tom Harrison had been fortunate enough to acquire an old papermill, together with the miller’s cottage and adjoining land, which, after considerable alteration, were ideal for his business. The railway station and a good timber merchant were both close at hand.
On his arrival at Scarborough Harrison had the formidable task of completing the St. Martin’s organ with little or no assistance, and with the added complication of a serious dispute between himself and his former business associate, to say nothing of the difficulties involved with the church authorities due to the dissolution of the Rochdale business. The sole benefactor of the Scarborough organ was a Miss Craven who proved to be most difficult because Tom was compelled to make a personal charge of £157.00 to complete the instrument. Other problems arose because his former associate, Horridge, had been instructed to send the swell box, conveyances, and Vox Humana stop, which caused considerable delay. Then followed a dispute with the railway company due to goods damaged in transit, and also a letter from the parents of an apprentice claiming that their son was carrying out voicing but not being paid a journeyman’s wage! Despite all these difficulties Tom Harrison was finally able to complete the Scarborough organ and obtain a personal testimonial from the Reverend J B Dykes. The instrument contained 56 speaking stops, one of which on the solo organ, was named “Omphiangelon” (have any KCOA members come across one of these before?)
Towards the end of the year James Harrison left Hill & son (the company he moved to after Willis) and joined his brother at Durham; thus the company became Harrison & Harrison for the first time. After the problematic first year or so their order books quickly began to fill up and during 1875 a three manual instrument was constructed for the private chapel at Castle Howard. By 1876 the business was firmly established in its new surroundings; no less than eleven instruments were built in that year, and from then until the close of the century an average of fifteen organs were built each year, the peak years being 1890 and 1898 with twenty two organs each.
Towards the close of the 19th century Tom’s 14 year old daughter Clara worked for the Company attending to the clerical side of the business. This work was unpaid – it was deemed sufficient remuneration simply to feed and house the girl whilst her brothers attended Durham School, where Arthur became the best classical scholar of his year, and took the post of organist at St. Giles Durham from the age of 13. Harry showed an interest in mechanical things from an early age so the two boys were earmarked for organ building when they left school. Neither had any choice as far as their future careers were concerned! Arthur left school in 1882 at the age of 14 and joined his father as an apprentice, then three years later Harry entered the firm at the same age. Both had a thorough training in every department of the factory and as their apprenticeships reached their ends it became clear that Arthur was destined to be a voicer while Harry’s developing skill lay with the technical side of the firm. For some time Arthur had to be up at 5.30am to let the men into the factory; the master’s son gained no privileges whatsoever and he worked as hard as the rest.
Tom Harrison Senior died on 6th April 1893 and he was buried five days later at Kensal Green Cemetery in London. He was 86 years old and his company supplying organ parts had flourished. He lived long enough not only to see two of his four sons enter the organ building world but also three grandchildren (if we include poor unpaid Clara).
Around 1895 or so, Thomas Hugh Harrison decided to retire from active organ building at the age of 56. What influenced him to retire at such an early age is not fully known; he had a very busy working life and no doubt was considerably well off. He retired to Isleworth in Middlesex where he bought a fine house standing within its own grounds and here he lived in style with a carriage, two horses and a coachman. Harry was taken into partnership in 1897, the two brothers having a quarter share each in the firm to their father’s half. An obituary notice in the Organist & Choirmaster for 1912 records the death of T.H. Harrison at the age of 73, but we know that eight years before his death control of the company was entirely in the hands of Arthur and Harry.
‘An Organist’s Diary’
By Andrew Cesana
Firstly, I must say, looking back over the last six months, that I thoroughly enjoyed the meetings at Canterbury and Christ Church, St Leonards-On-Sea. Certainly, Canterbury Cathedrals’ new Visitors Centre is a real treat to see and will offer organisations such as ours a lot of scope for the future.
Secondly, I was asked by one member of the title of the piece I played at Christ Church, St. Leonards during our meeting after the recital there. The answer, for those members who might be interested, was Grand Choeur by Guy Weitz. Weitz was for several years Organist of the Jesuit Church at Farm Street, London and the instruments at Farm Street and St Leonards are both Henry Willis III organs of similar vintage, hence one of my reasons for playing it. However I do apologise for having started off unintentionally loud by opening the Crescendo pedal instead of the Swell pedal! Farm Street does not have the Crescendo pedal, hence my reason for having opened the Crescendo pedal by accident. Guy Weitz’s music is published by Chester and is available through Music Sales, or Allegro Music in Birmingham as a special order.
I am also able to answer the question that inadvertently didn’t get answered last year. The write of the review of the meeting at Speldhurst and Rusthall in February 2000, asked about the final organ voluntary after Evensong at Rusthall. It was, in fact, Percy Fletcher’s Festival Toccata. It appears in Ceremonial Music for Organ published by the Oxford University Press.
Other meetings that I have attending recently included the visits by East surrey Organists’ Association to Brighton, which was held jointly with the Brighton Association, and involved visits to three organs not visited by the Kent Association on our trip there in 1995. The three instruments were St. Paul's West Street, a lovely four manual Hunter, in a sumptuous building in the Anglo Catholic tradition, rather like Christ Church, St. Leonards-On-Sea. John Burdett, the Organist there, was a
KCOA member back in the mid 1970’s whilst resident in Kent. Secondly, Brighton College Chapel, a fair size three manual but somewhat strident in its tone and, lastly, St. Mary’s Church, Kemp town. It is affectionately known as the “Cathedral” of Kemp Town, which has one of the finest Bevington organs in existence, albeit with 16ft and 32ft electronic reeds! Bill Sibbey, the Organist there, demonstrated with an improvisation, after which members were allowed to play. I played what was thought to be a newly discovered set of variations on St. Patrick’s Breast Plate, by Marcel Dupre, rather appropriate as the meeting was held on 17th March!.
There are two other Association meetings to mention, namely the North Hampshire Association’s trip to Windsor and Eton on 5th May, which was preceded by the visit to Datchet Parish Church with its fine 3-manual Bishop. Two other Associations were present at Eton and Windsor, namely the Northampton and Peterborough Associations. After being “examined” in the School Hall, there was a demonstration of the fine Flentrop “Dutch” organ, followed by a demonstration of the Chapel organ, and last but by no means least, the fine new Kenneth Tickell organ in the Lower Chapel, which was demonstrated by Kenneth Tickell, who also gave a lecture for the three Associations present. He is a member of the Northampton Association, who had the largest number of numbers present.
On then to St. George’s Chapel Windsor, for Choral Evensong which included canticles by Howells in G and John Irelands’ Greater Love as the anthem. This was followed by a demonstration of the organ by Jonathan Rees Williams, the Organist and Master of the Choristers at St. George’s . I am now working on getting Eton and Windsor for the KCOA next May!
The Bromley and Croydon Association had a very enjoyable meeting at Farnborough Abbey and Sandhurst, on Saturday 19th May. Farnborough contains the fine Cavaille Coll organ recently restored by Klais as well as the burial place of the last Emperor of France, Napoleon III and his family. Sandhurst, the much-acclaimed Military Academy, houses a fine Rushworth and Dreaper in the Royal Memorial chapel, the prototype for Guildford Cathedral.
The next KCOA coach trip, following Cambridge, will be to the Bromley and Norwood area on Saturday 24th November, featuring Bromley Parish Church with its 1993 Walker – the one that got away in 1994! Then Bromley United Reformed Church – three minutes walk from the Parish Church – with its fine Hill, Norman and Beard organ of 1990. Then on to Christ Church, Beckenham, a fine 3-manual originally by Hunter of 1900, with the specification drawn up by Edwin Lemare and successively restored by Henry Willis III in 1950, and subsequently by Martin Cross in 1994. Holy Innocents at South Norwood follows, a fine 3-manual Norman and Beard of 1898, and lastly, St John’s Upper Norwood, a Pearson church in the style of St. Michael and All Angels, Croydon with its fine T.C Lewis organ restored by Harrison’s. Tea will be provided at Upper Norwood. If you would like further details beyond those in the current journal please do not hesitate to contact me (see page one. It would be a great shame if there were a lack of support for this meeting.
On behalf of my family, may I thank the Association for the support and messages of condolence on the recent sad loss of my father on 21st March. They were much appreciated and we are coping as best we can.
Lastly, some exciting news. Some recently discovered Dupre compositions are, in fact, improvisations, and I am happy to say that I have been accepted as a course participant on the London Improvisation course from 23rd to 25th July, the tutors being Loic Maille (Paris and Lyons Conservatories), Duncan Middleton (Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square) and Gerard Brooks (All souls, Langham Place).
The Friends of Cathedral Music
by Brian Moore
“they all seemed to be embryo Terry Wogans!”
I thought readers of our Journal might be interested in a visit my wife Jean and I made to Dublin last September which was organised by The Friends of Cathedral Music. It should perhaps first be explained that his is a charity with subscribers in Britain and overseas, and its aim it to assist cathedrals in maintaining high standards in the music for services. The FCM was founded in 1956 and now regularly distributes over £100,000 each year in the form of grants to cathedrals and collegiate chapels in Britain and overseas. The current President is Dr George Guest CBE, and the Chairman is Alan Thurlow, with similarly distinguished names among the Vice-Presidents and the Council. Events are arranged on a local and national basis and these are called Gatherings.
We had been to two previous “National Gatherings” in Lincoln and York and had thoroughly enjoyed them, so considerable interest was raised when it was announced that the Gathering for the Millennium would be held in Dublin, particularly for us as Jean has relatives there whom she rarely sees. So on Thursday 28th September we flew out from Stanstead with John and Janet Baker, who now live in Ely – John was a KCOA member until recently.
The Gate Hotel had been recommended to us, but our taxi driver from the airport misheard our request and stopped outside The Gate Theatre – this caused some amusement when he said he thought we might be theatrical folk, and he had been wondering who we might be and what we did! However we did not feel quite so confident when he had to phone his office to check the location of the hotel, and our hears sank when he eventually stopped outside. Although it was very close to the city centre, it was not what we were expecting. Fortunately we had a list of recommended hotels with us which had been sent by FCM, and were able to locate a room in a Best Western Hotel. The receptionist at The Gate was more than a little surprised when Jean announced that we would not be staying, but she did give us back some of our deposit and called a taxi for us.
The next day, we visited St Michan’s Church, which was founded in 1095. Jean had a special reason for wanting to do this as her father used to tell the tale of shaking hands with an 800 year old Crusader. The vaults of the church are its most famous feature, and the burial chambers each belong to a single family. Due to the dry atmospheric conditions in the vaults most of the coffins are in a wonderful state of preservation, but in one vault the wooden coffins have fallen away, revealing amazingly well preserved mummified bodies complete with hair and nails. One mummy is believed to be the body of a Crusader, and Jean was able to touch one of his fingers, which had been broken over the years by the many people who had done the same thing, including her father some 80 years ago.
St. Michan’s also has a very fine organ, built in 1724 by J Baptise de Courville of Dublin, and sympathetically rebuilt in 1952. The original 3-manual console is preserved, and there is a strong tradition that Handel played on it when he came to Dublin for the production of Messiah. I was able to play it, and much admired its unforced singing tone. At one point the curate came in and called up to the west gallery “You have the job, you have the job!” I would have been more than happy to accept.
Dublin has two Church of Ireland Cathedrals, the National Cathedral of St. Patrick and the Diocesan Cathedral of Christ Church, and they are within a few minutes walk of each other. Christ Church is within the old city walls, and was founded in 1172, and St Patrick’s to the south was founded in 1191. Both were restored in the 19th century, the restoration of Christ Church being financed by Henry Roe, a leading Dublin distiller, and St Patrick’s by the Guinness family. Drink was a powerful thing! Today both cathedrals are beautifully maintained and well attended, although only some 3% of the population of the Republic of Ireland is Protestant.
After a visit to the splendid State Apartments in Dublin Castle, the FCM programme of events started at St Patrick’s where there is a magnificent Willis organ, restored in 1995 by Harrison and Harrison. The full specification is given in the Organists Review February 2001. The choir of the boys and men still maintain the tradition of daily sung Matins and Evensong under the direction of the Organist and Choirmaster, John Dexter. Our party was given a conducted tour of the Cathedral by the Dean, the Very rev. R B MacCarthy, who had a wonderful sense of Irish humour, as did several other guides and speakers – they all seemed to be embryo Terry Wogans! He explained that the architecture of Christ Church was very pure, but there were not many things to see inside as there were in St Patrick’s and by and large people liked to see things. Of particular interest was the display and memorial relating to Jonathan Swift, who was Dean 1713-1745.
During the course of the weekend we heard some fine music, splendidly sung by the choir of St Patrick’s . This included canticles to Wood in F (Collegium Regale), sung Eucharist to Darke in F, and a lovely setting of Ave verum corpus by Colin Mawby. David Leigh, the sub-organist, gave an excellent recital, playing music by Howells, Jongen, Liszt, and Germani. Friday afternoon concluded with a sherry reception at The Deanery, which is a magnificent Georgian building with lovely grounds and a view of the Cathedral. It has a galleried entrance hall, and impressive reception rooms hung with portraits of previous Deans and furnished with exquisite period furniture. We certainly felt that we were entering a bygone age. The Dean said that he was often asked if the rooms were unaltered since Dean Swift’s time, but the answer had to be typically Irish: “Partly yes and partly no!” This was because there had been a fire in Dean Swift’s time.
The next day Joseph O’Gorman who had a marvellous theatrical turn of phrase, gave us a guided tour of Trinity College. The Chapel has a three-manual organ built by Walkers in 1968, inside the beautiful Green case, the consultant being Ralph Downes. The Public Theatre (Examination Hall) of the College contains another lovely case, believed to be the oldest in Ireland, probably built by Lancelot Pease. The instrument itself has been much altered, but there are plans for a restoration. A bus tour gave the opportunity of seeing some of the marvellous Georgian squares and terraces for which Dublin is justly noted. This is the only city where front doors in such terraces are permitted to be painted in different colours, instead of a uniform white. The story goes that this was done so that the gentleman who had been to their clubs for the evening could find their own houses.
Our visit to Christ Church Cathedral was also very interesting. The verger who took us on a guided tour was another witty Irishman, who hinted at the friendly rivalry which exists between the two cathedrals by referring to St. Patrick’s as “the chapel in the valley”! Christ Church has a splendid modern organ built by a Kenneth Jones in 1984. It is a 3-manual instrument, in a fine case projecting over the north choir stalls with the organist’s gallery 15 feet about floor level. Key and stop action is tracker, with an electric combination system.
Evensong was sung by the first class mixed choir, consisting mainly of students and undergraduates, the setting being Howells St Paul’s service and the anthem Faire in the Heaven by Harris. There are full choral services on Sunday, with Evensong being sung on Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. Andrew Johnson, the sub-organist, played a suite by De Grigny, and the Introduction and Passacaglia by Walter Alcock, which showed that the organ is well able to cope with the romantic repertoire as well as music of the French baroque.
On Sunday, we spent a very happy evening with Jean’s sprightly 96 year old uncle and her cousins and their families and the next day Jean’s brother and his wife drove down from Belfast to take us for a drive in the Wicklow Mountains. Apart from the wonderful scenery, our main memory of the day was finding a small tea-room in a tiny village, with just a few houses overlooking open fields. Inside we found it was also the post office and an “Internet Café”! Ireland is changing very quickly – where are the donkeys and peat cutters?
A ‘Royal Festival Hall’ debut
By Alistair Curtis
‘How would you like to compose an organ piece to be performed at the Royal Festival Hall, by the Sub Organist of Winchester Cathedral?” was the question posed to me by my organ teacher Peter Collins, (director of music at King Charles of Martyr Church, Tunbridge Wells) earlier this year. My answer was of course, “Yes please”.
This was a group of seven ‘A’ Level music students and myself went to the RFH in January this year, (entering by the artists’ entrance) and met with the composer Roxanna Panufnik. We each had a separate tutorial regarding what we could do to the preliminary ideas that we took along. The brief was to compose a piece that was to have a certain mood. The scheme was part of a joint RCO and RFH musical education programme. I had missed the first session at the RCO where the others had the organ demonstrated to them by Sarah Baldock to show them the different colours and dynamics, and to try it out for themselves, but I was still allowed to join the group.
On the 12th February, we went to Tonbridge school chapel. This time we met with Miss Baldock to sort out the registration for our pieces. Again we had individual tutorials, so that we would not hear each other’s pieces, and I was allowed to play mine, but it wasn’t finished then.
We went back to Tonbridge School on the 16th of February with finished pieces (well most of them, anyway) and met both Sarah Baldock and Rosanna Panufnik. This time everyone came at the same time so we could hear all the pieces. I played the beginning of my piece and where it gets more difficult. Miss Baldock played the manuals, whilst I pedalled!
The performance was on 8th of March at the Royal Festival Hall. By now I knew that my piece was to be played, as I had been telephoned during the week by Simon Williams of the RCO, and then by Sarah Baldock, to finalise some tempo and notation details about my piece. In the afternoon, we all had a chance to play the Royal Festival Hall organ, and so I played an improvisation. Apart from the mass of tone colours, and antiphonal effects, the organ was so controllable to the player, with a very responsive action.
At the event, preceding the recital by Nicholas Kynaston, Dr McVicker – curator of the RFH Organ – interviewed Miss Panufnik and had played some extracts from the Westminster mass, which she had written, and talked briefly about them. Three of the eight pieces were performed: one by its composer, and the other two by Sarah Baldock. Five hundred people were in attendance.
I composed my piece on the name Ralph Downes, (converting it into the notes on the keyboard) and he was organ curator, and designed the organ itself. My piece is theme and variations, and I have now submitted it as my AS Level composition, accompanied by a recording of it by the BBC. My piece was the last to be played and after each piece the composer(s) – all sitting in the front row, and nearly late for the start of the performance – were invited to take a bow. After all three pieces had been played, the eight of us were invited on stage. We all enjoyed the whole experience very much.
The Psalms by Harry Coles
Is any among you afflicted? Let him pray.
Is any merry? Let him sing psalms.”
St. James: 5:13
One has only to put on an Hyperions CD of psalms from St Paul’s to appreciate how impeccable, under John Scott, all 150 can be rendered, and accompanied! Often, they are the highlight of the Wednesdays choral Evensong broadcast weekly on BBC Radio 3, that has now been running for over 70 years, and, as such, is utterly peculiar to England!
As the Psalter is appointed to bee redde’, was peculiar too to The First Prayer Book of King Edward VI, issued in 1549. Actually there were two! The illustration is of the ‘Title-page and Colophon’ of the March one (Mense Martii) that was first used in London on Easter Day which, in that year, fell on April 21st. The fuller addition of May (Mense Maii) was used at the Feast of Pentecost, on June 9th. My copy of the Martii, that beautiful, and Verbatim et Literatin, was published in 1902.
A letter from a clergyman in Church Times recently bemoaned the fact that, with the advent of Common Worship, the Psalms were not pointed. Since 1549, in our Prayer Books, they never were! But it would be useful to see how in the rendering of ‘Cathedral Music’ they were eventually pointed, as to be sung.
The very first recorded instance of a Parish Church having any professional singers was at St Peter-at-Leeds in 1815, that during the incumbency of the Reverend Mr Fawsett. By 1818, was introduced there a surpliced choir singing mainly metrical Psalmody and Anthems but, for various reasons, not least financial, by the time the Reverend Dr Walter Hook took over (Leeds’ vicar 1837-1859), it had been disbanded. He, though, was determined to have “Cathedral Choir” and, in 1842, brought in Dr S.S. Wesley from Exeter Cathedral as his Organist, and James Hill as his choirmaster. The rest, as they say, is history.
But in the later 1800s, it was due entirely to the spread of Parish Choirs, which influenced Cathedrals’ and Oxbridge Chapels’ Choirs with a full Choral Foundation, that they all had to pull their socks up! One can read in Grove’s Concise, under Dr. Arthur Mann, that on his becoming Organist at King’s (1876-1929) he transformed the Chapel Choir from one of the worst in Cambridge into the most famous Anglican Choir in the world. And that standard has been maintained by his successors and its present incumbent, Stephen Cleobury since 1982. Daily Choral Services, of supreme excellence still obtain at Leeds under Simon Lindley, there since 1975. Later, at Grimsby Parish Church, full Choral Services on a week day too, are normal.
What happened at Leeds Parish Church spread like wild fire, not only in the North, but South too! By the 1860s, churches with S.A.T.B. robed Choirs were fairly customary. But how to sing the psalms as appointed to be read in the B.C.P? There was increasing demand for such. It was fulfilled in 1875 with the advent of The Cathedral Psalter, the work of two clergymen, Dr John Troutbeck and S. Flood-Jones, in collaboration with the two musicians, Sir John Stainer, and Sir Joseph Barnby. It had immediate success, and the damage was done!
That, and the New Cathedral Psalter of 1909 (even worse) were still very much in vogue when I was a church chorister in the later 1920s.
To the Victorians, and Anglican Chant was a composition in its own right, with regular beats to the bar (to the observed), and sacrosanct. It took precedence over Miles Coverdale’s beautiful poetry of 1535 (the Psalms in A V. are later) so, whether a verse had many or but a few syllabals, they were gabbled, or long drawn out, to fit, with various “bumps” on propositions. And with canticles, one sang ; ‘ My Soul doth magni-FY’ the Lord, etc, etc. Who upset the apple-cart?
It was at the turn into the 1900s with the Poet Laureate, Robert Bridges, who was largely responsible for the initiative to consider that the chant be used flexibly, and to be subservient to the text. The very first Church musician to think on the same lines, was Dr. A. Madely Richardson of Southwark Cathedral (1897-1908), who, in 1905, as a fresh beginning, published his The Southwark Psalter (its reason d’etre suggested to him by the natural rendering of plainsong psalms), with the words to be given the stress and duration as in normal speaking. It too had Organ Preludes and Interludes between verses, which now make it a bit passé, though very important historically. Every chant was his; a monumental task.
At the actual Ceremony of the Inauguration of Southwark Cathedral on 3rd July 1905, attended by King Edward VII and Queen Alexandra, it contained a rubric to the effect that Her Majesty had consented to accept a copy of Dr Richardson’s The Southwark Psalter, which was duly presented to her by its author.
Later, at New College, Oxford, Sir Hugh Allen, assisted by Sir Walford Davies, were thinking on the same lines, using the Chapel Choir experimentally, to ‘try out’ their ideas which, with due accentuation of words, with natural stresses, proved highly successful. Then came the 1914/18 War. By 1925 they’d published their The Psalter Newly Pointed S.P.C.K, which was even set-out as poetry, and had immediate impact. This was followed by the Oxford and the Parish, and others, Psalters all with the same ethos which came to be referred to as “speech rhythm”. Together they sounded the death knell of the two Cathedral Psalters!
With 1925’s advent of The Psalter Newly Pointed, Dr Edgar Tom Cook (1909-1953) who had succeed Dr Richardson, replaced The Southwark Psalter with the S.P.C.K’s , where today it still obtains! So, at any church, having a Choir at all, whether singing S.A.T.B. , or just a single line, what pointing to use of many available remains the personal choice of the incumbent, in collaboration with his or her organist.
Canon Donald Eperson
Rev. Canon Donald Eperson a past President and member of our association, has died aged 96. Canon Eperson was joint President 1976-1977 together with his wife Phyllis who died last year. They lived in Puckle Lane, Canterbury for 33 years, although they moved to Sussex in 1997.
Phyllis played the Organ at Chillham Church for many years as well as being an excellent pianist. Donald excelled at most things, being initially a mathematician; he was a musician, writer, and cleric. He was at various times chaplain of Sherborne School, a vicar, honorary priest at Chichester Cathedral, inspector of religious education in Church of England schools in the Chichester archdeaconry and canon emeritus of Salisbury. He also composed settings of the psalms for The Anglican Chant Book.
As a maths teacher he taught Alan Turing, the father of modern computer programming, as well as being a regular contributor to the Times Educational Supplement providing articles and recreational mathematics for the “Puzzling it out” pages. Moving to Canterbury he took a full-time post as a senior lecturer and honorary assistant chaplain at Christ Church College of Education. Donald assisted Alfred Deller in establishing a choral group at the University of Kent. He was invited to become an honorary minor canon of Canterbury Cathedral and frequently sang the office at the Dean’s evensong.
He retired in 1969 but never gave up working, becoming a regular contributor to the journals of Lewis Carroll Society. Donald worked at his ancient typewriter until his last few days, completing his autobiography just before he died.
David Brock a short profile
Possibly, no other technology has had such a far-reaching influence on society as television. John L.Baird made his first successful television broadcast across the Atlantic in 1928, although it was not until the mid 1930’s that the BBC experimental high definition television broadcasts began from Alexandra Palace, using both the Baird system (240-line pictures), and the Marconi E.M.I system (405-line pictures).
By 1937, the Marconi “boffins” in their white lab-coats, had won the day, and the BBC Television Service – the first in the world – was born. Remarkably, this Marconi 450-line system was to remain in use for another fifty years.
However, this all pales into insignificance compared with 1937’s raison d’etre, the birth of our good friend David Brock, born on 15th September at Reading, Berkshire. Communications were in the family as David’s father was a printer, originally from Plymouth, Devon, who had moved to Reading to find work. He married in 1936; his new wife was a children’s nurse, also from Devon, who sang in the same chapel choir.
David was soon upon the scene, but it is doubtful he saw any early television broadcasts. David’s eye sight needed a little help, and consequently, he acquired his first pair of spectacles at the age of two. This was in 1939, just as war was declared, and the Alexandra Palace transmitter was closed down for fear of German aircraft “homing in” on the signal.
In 1944, regardless of continued hostilities, David’s parents arranged for him to start piano lessons with Mr A.H. Lusty, Secretary of the Berkshire Organists’ Association. David took to it immediately, making good progress and sat Trinity College exams to Grade 4, and then Associated Board exams to Grade 7.
April 12th 1947 – David’s first football match, an exciting excursion with his father and grandfather, who was an engine driver. The tickets cost 7/6d for the three seats in the stand , (Reading 1 Notts County 1).
May 1952, aged fourteen, David started organ lessons at his Reading School. The chapel of Reading Grammar School housed a 2-manual and pedal organ, which was divided either side on a West gallery. It was a modest instrument with Electro-pneumatic action and had five stops on each manual with two on the pedal. Although the builder’s name escapes David, he remembers clearly the visiting music master, Fred Griffin ARCO, who gave selected pupils organ lessons for the princely sum of £2. 10s per term. David was fortunate to be one of them.
Leaving school in 1954 aged eighteen, David started work at Reading Town Hall in the council’s Treasurer’s Department. This was not to last very long, for in April 1956, with some trepidation, he was called up for National Service and was assigned to the Royal Pay Corps at Devizes.
His fears were unfounded as throughout his military service David made many very good friends and, in short, had a pretty good time. July 17th 1956 saw David posted to the Regimental Pay Office, Footscray, Kent, although he was barracked at Woolwich.
October 12th 1957 – his one and only Charlton match as a National Service Man, (Charlton 0 West Ham 0).
April 1958 brought a return to civilian life and the Treasurers’ Department at Reading Town Hall. Also in 1958 David had his first organ lesson at St. Mary’s Church, Reading, under their organist Mr Ewart Masser. David was indeed privileged to have full freedom to practice at St Mary’s . This fine 4-manual Willis has many interesting stops and was blessed with a Pedal 16ft Ophicleide of generous proportions. It was discovered accidentally by David one dark night. Not knowing what a pedal Ophicleide sounded like he was casually blipped a note which , in the dark emptiness of the church, was so thunderous it gave him a fright, he hasn’t quite recovered from even now.
June 1959 saw David’s first organ appointment at Elm Park Hall Methodist Church, Reading. Although this was a shared position, he did have a rewarding 2-manual and pedal Forster & Andrews, with “kick” Swell Pedal, to play.
By January 1963 David was attending the organ recitals at Reading Town Hall Berkshire Organists’ Association, and decided to join the Association.
David moved to the Medway Towns in June 1965 and started working from the Borough of Gillingham. (He says this was a “BOG” standard move – something to do with BOG burnt into the sides of Gillingham Council’s deck chairs, the letters, of course, being the marking “Borough of Gillingham”)
October 2nd 1965 – his first match at Gillingham’s Priestfield Stadium (Gillingham 3 Brighton 1).
The Berkshire Organists’ Association’s Secretary was able to put David in touch with our own Kent County Association. His first meeting with us was at Faversham in December 1965 and he was immediately befriended by our Gordon Lucas with whom, amongst others, he formed enduring and fond friendships.
Life continued in an orderly way until 1973 when, at Byron Road Methodist Church, Gillingham, David met his wife Sue, who sang soprano and was the church choir’s music librarian. David offered to help put some music away on one occasion, and they married soon afterwards – David’s best man was a long time friend from National Service days.
August 1974 unleashed Local Government reorganisation and, with it, David’s move to Maidstone to work at County Hall. Also, in April the following year, David’s parents retired and moved to Dawlish, Devon. Their bungalow was only ten minutes from the sea where the railway runs along close to the sea.
By April 1975 the lure of Gillingham’s Municipal buildings was too great and David returned to work there again. In 1976 David and his wife Sue, were blessed with Rachel, born on April 8th.
David’s first organ playing appointment in Kent was at the Methodist church, Byron Road, Gillingham in 1970 which had an electronic instrument. February 1977 produced higher things – playing for the 9.00am service at H.M Borstal at the C of E Chapel which possessed a 2-manual and pedal Willis organ.
October 1982 brought another change of organ stool. This was to St. Paul's Church, Gillingham (now Gillingham Methodist Church). It was some months before David’s daughter Rachel realised, with some disappointment that her father’s weekly excursions were not to “St Paul’s Cathedral, London”.
The Brock family are enthusiastic walkers and, during the summer of 1984, walked the entire “Saxon Shore Way” a coastal route stretching from Gravesend to Rye, East Sussex. It was accomplished in eleven stages through the summer.
From June 1990, David deputised and played for occasional services at The First Church of Christ Scientist, Maidstone, and it was at this time he started his first term as a member of our KCOA committee. A second term came seven years later.
On 31st March 1998 Gillingham Borough Council ceased to exist and David retired, although there was a transitional period during which he worked for the new council on a consultant basis. Also, April that year presented new intellectual challenges when David joined the Medway Scrabble Club.
September 12th 1998 – First match as a season ticket holder at Charlton (Charlton 1 Derby 2).
October 8th 1998 – the final retirement and, of course, more time for football. Together with his daughter Rachel, David set off for Reading and the Madejski Stadium – shame about the football (Reading 0 Gillingham 0)
The Autumn of 1999 gave time for more walking expeditions, this time taking the “Saxon Shore Way” from Gravesend to Hastings, achieved in seventeen stages, walking with the Medway Group of The Holiday Fellowship, on “quiet” Mondays while more ordinary mortals were tied to their desks.
David has always been an ardent and enthusiastic Kent County Association member and is delighted to have been appointed as our new Treasurer this year. We are pleased to have David with us in his new capacity, which seems particularly fitting, considering his enjoyment of a life full of numerical nuances.
David’s sense of humour and infectious laugh are just outward signs of his geniality and bonhomie. David enjoys being engaged in the rough and tumble of life’s humorous “goings on” especially if it can be combined with his lifetime’s distraction – football.
However, this kindly demeanour, courteousness and consideration for others confirm he is indubitably – if we may express it colloquially – a “good egg”! His loyal membership over so many years has brought much to our Association, and, indeed, we trust he will continue with us in his new capacity for many more.
cover Gary Tollerfield
The organ of Pembroke College, Cambridge which we visited in June was built in
1980 by N P Mander and sits exquisitely in the Smith/Quarles oak organ case of 1708.
The front pipes also date from this period or earlier
"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".