It may seem churlish to select just one highlight from among our meetings this year, as they have all been of such an engagingly high quality. But for many, the most outstanding occasion would have undoubtedly been our Organ Festival, with the phenomenal playing of our six young contestants. For others, perhaps, our visit to Tunbridge Wells in March with two fine organs beautifully played; or the blossoming Kent countryside in April with the enchanting small village organs of Ospringe, Stalisfield and Otterden.
But, in truth, our visit to Cambridge in June must just have been the ultimate experience as it included, not only St. John’s College choir, but also four sumptuously intriguing organs all enfolded in the cloistered utopia of Cambridge’s architectural heritage.
At St. John’s College Chapel, Dr David Hill’s organ demonstration, choir rehearsal and Choral Evensong, were enduringly memorable, such was the utter musicality and quality of performance. Set to Anglican chant for Evensong, psalms 13 and 14, opening with Coverdale’s words: “How long wilt thou forget me O Lord for ever”, and psalm 14: “The fool hath said in his heart: There is no God. They are corrupt, and become abominable in their doings”, were so tellingly and exquisitely sung, with the deep gravitas of 32ft organ tone accompaniment, that even the most seriously lapsed Anglican could not fail to have been returned to the fold. For others, the Rose reponses, Howells St Paul’s Service canticles and the anthem, Vaughan Williams Five Mystical Songs were stunningly performed with incredible dynamics and musical phrasing. If that was not enough, the elegantly measured playing and the organ’s ravishingly rich English colour in Walton’s March, Orb and Sceptre, provided a patriotically moving conclusion to the service and our day in Cambridge.
Dr Robert Ashfield’s memorial service at Rochester Cathedral in May was another notable occasion, with the combined choirs of both Southwell and Rochester, and we are pleased to include in our Journal a personal appreciation of his life by Paul Hale. Undoubtedly, Dr Ashfield was a unique musician, a man blessed with a quiet genius; with his passing a chapter of English church music closes with him.
At our AGM we welcomed our new President Roger Gentry who undoubtedly has much to contribute and thanked Barbara Childs for her tireless work during the past two years, her Organ Festival a lasting legacy of her time in office.
Also, we must acknowledge the excellent work of our Secretary, Rosemary Clemence and Treasurer, David Brock. Although David retires as Treasurer this year he remains, together with Brian Moore, a Journal Sub Editor, working quietly in the background with expert hands and eyes buffing and polishing the contributions with the care of Hatton Garden jewellers, helping to produce a Journal which not only reflects our Association’s activities, but also provides an agreeable curiosity for those members who may not be able to participate in our monthly ventures as often as they might like.
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