Kent County Organists’ Association
August 2010 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
Arundel & Chichester
Finchcocks & N P Seymour, Engineers
Jonathan Hope Canterbury Recital
Maidstone Festival Recital
Notes from the Netherlands
Obituaries & News
Otford & AGM
Sittingbourne, St Michael's
Westgate & Birchington
Wrotham, St George's
It would be impossible to open the pages of a good hymnbook without the music of Hubert Parry leaping unbidden from its pages. With the 2010 BBC Proms season underway it is gratifying to see some of Parry’s music, in addition to Jerusalem, featured this year, as he is undoubtedly one of our finest English composers. Following his death in 1918, his life and work has been well documented remembering his many, now eminent, pupils, who included, R Vaughan Williams, Holst, Ireland and Howells.
Although Parry himself may have passed from living memory, Gordon Chapman, a past President of our Association, has recorded his own memories of some of Parry’s most distinguished students in his ‘Recollections’ article for our Journal. Following his examination by Dr Hubert Middleton during the early 1940s, Gordon gained the organ scholarship at Queens’ College, Cambridge and he gives us an intriguing insight into the organists and composers of the time. He paints an engaging picture of unique musical skills and affectations encountered when meeting Harold Darke, Boris Ord, R V Williams and Herbert Howells, turning for him regularly at the John’s Chapel organ. Gordon was President of our Association 1984-1985 and also a Director of F H Browne & Sons organ builders. Now retired and living in France his profile featured in our January 2000 Journal, which is now available on line at our Association website. Click HERE for a direct link to the article.
Our meetings this year have been no less interesting, visiting diverse places and organs; in fact, the age and design of instruments has been manifold. The fine 1881 William Hill organ at St Michael’s Church, Sittingbourne in January was particularly enjoyable, its voicing full of delicate Hill colours. Birchington and Westgate in February offered some interesting history including the demise of the Pre-Raphaelite painter Dante Gabriel Rossetti, now buried at Birchington. St George’s Church, Wrotham, with its statuesque 2-manual and pedal Forster & Andrews tracker organ of 1883, may not have been the finest we visited, but Organist, Neil Rollings, certainly brought it to life in an enjoyable recital finishing with Sortie in E flat major by A. Lefébure-Wély. The coach outing in April, visiting Arundel and Chichester Cathedrals, was an absorbing excursion with organs and music to satisfy even the most demanding connoisseur.
Our Organ Festival, arranged for May, was regrettably postponed until later this year, and is now scheduled for 30th October. Nevertheless, the afternoon and Festival Recital given by last year’s finalist, Jonathan Hope, went ahead as arranged and his mastery of the All Saints’ Maidstone organ proved absolutely stunning. The visit to ‘Finchcocks’ at Goudhurst in June, with its wonderful collection of harpsichords, pianos and organs seemed perhaps the ultimate highlight of our year, until we arrived at N P Seymour, agricultural engineers. Here we were completely intoxicated by the infectious rhythms and sounds of a Belgian ‘Mortier’ dance hall organ of 1922, demonstrated by Alistair Curtis. This, together with a mobile continental fairground organ by Bursens of Antwerp, was the icing on the cake, concluding a most extraordinary and memorable meeting.
Situated on the Roman road from London to Canterbury, Sittingbourne once abounded with coaching inns echoing to the coachman’s horn summoning the ostler for a speedy change of horses. Today, although much remains of the High Street’s historic timber framed buildings, they are now hidden behind tawdry modern shop fronts, and the medieval timbers of the remaining hostelries; the Red Lion, the Bull and the George, now play host to a very different clientele.
Nevertheless, with the advent of the railway in 1858, Sittingbourne’s commerce expanded considerably with papermaking and brick manufacture augmenting the local farm trade. The town’s evolution, both commercial and social, had been dramatic, although the one constant in this metamorphosis has been the 12th century Parish Church of St Michael and all Angels. We were to discover much of this interesting history in a talk given by St Michael’s Verger, Clifford Styles, who has also carried out research into St Michael’s stained glass windows, producing a detailed illustrated leaflet. The church was seriously damaged by fire in 1762 and, regretfully, there is now only a small remnant of medieval glass; most of the windows are now Victorian, although they are of undoubted quality.
Unusually, we arrived at the church to the sound of the organ being tuned. Apparently some spiders had taken up residence in a couple of the Great organ trumpet pipes and our deputy President, Colin Jilks, was in the process of evicting them and tuning the trumpets ready for the organ demonstration by St Michael’s organist and KCOA member, Ian Payne.
Photo. Colin Jilks
The organ is an 1881 3-manual and pedal William Hill which, in common with many organs of the period, is rather buried behind an arch in the north transept, but speaks well into the chancel. Its green and gold painted front case pipes — the bottom octave of the Great open diapason — still retain their original Victorian pattern stencilling, which is echoed on the smaller side case display. Although originally installed with tracker action, Hill, Norman & Beard rebuilt the organ in 1928 with exhaust pneumatic action, installing a new console with forty-five degree drawstop jambs. A new Pedal open diapason 16ft was added as well as a fifteenth 2ft and a vox angelica 8ft in the Swell. In 1976 HN&B cleaned and overhauled the organ, electrifying the drawstops and adding a new electric action trumpet chest with a 16ft double trumpet extension making the Great trumpet playable at 8ft and 4ft on the Great and 16ft, 8ft and 4ft on the pedal. A tierce 13/5 was added to the Great and the Choir Dulciana 8ft revoiced as a Nazard 22/3. The specification is: Great Organ, 8 8 4 4 2 13/5 11 8 4; Swell Organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 2 111 8 8 Tremulant; Choir Organ, 8 4 22/3 8; Pedal Organ, 16 16 8 16 8 4 with Sub and Super Octave couplers to Swell and Choir and other usual couplers.
Ian Payne demonstrated the organ with four contrasting pieces. March by Nicholas Choveaux, which used the colourful full Swell Organ with its very effective Swell box; then J S Bach’s Kommst du nun, Jesu, vom Himmel Herunter BWV 650 with beautiful flutes, mutations and solo Swell Horn. In George Oldroyd’s Liturgical Improvisation No. 2 the Swell strings were particularly beguiling balanced against a solo Great flute and Choir Clarinet. Ian finished with César Franck’s Pièce Héroique, the rich Swell reeds in a closed Swell box underpinning the Great diapason’s haunting melody, the piece concluding with a telling full organ climax.
Following Ian’s demonstration, members were free to try the organ for themselves and many commented on the unforced colour and character of this instrument and, even though tea was being served at the back of the church, many stayed drawn to this fine Hill organ.
Following tea we made ourselves comfortable for a talk and DVD presentation by Christopher Clemence, assisted by his wife, and KCOA Secretary, Rosemary at the computer projector, ready with a number of historic photographs. The title of the talk was Liverpool Connections with anecdotes and reminiscences from Christopher’s first visit to Liverpool through to the present day. His first Liverpool encounter was in August 1961 when he was a choirboy at St Stephen’s Church, Chatham. He was selected by the RSCM Course Director, Gerald Knight, to sing in Liverpool Cathedral on a summer choir course. His next visit was in 1967 when he was able to hear the new Walker organ in the Metropolitan Cathedral. Further visits were in 1978, as the Anglican Cathedral was finished, a visit with the Organ Club in 1986, and again in 2001 to meet with David Poulter.
The DVD was a fascinating demonstration of the Henry Willis 111 5-manual and pedal organ by Ian Tracy, his intimate knowledge of the instrument delivered with an insouciant charm making it all the more engaging. This organ, which was started in 1920, was built in consultation with the Cathedral’s first organist, the eminent Henry Goss-Custard, Henry Willis’s close friend and organ confidant; thankfully, although actions and consoles have been updated, the organ has remained as it was tonally conceived. The Priory DVD has been produced to highlight not only the splendours of this fine English organ, but also to publicise the now pressing need for a major cleaning and overhaul costing in the region of half a million pounds.
We must thank Christopher and Rosemary for their engaging talk and also Ian Payne for his playing and arranging the afternoon for us.
Nestling on Kent’s bleak North-East coast, records reveal that in 1240 Birchington consisted of just a few isolated cottages. Its population seems to have grown rapidly during the following one hundred years as its Parish Church of All Saints’ dates from 1350. The church contains some quite magnificent monuments dating from the early 1600s, remembering the Kentish families of Crispe and Colepeper; and, more recently, the grave of the 19th century Pre-Raphaelite artist Dante Gabriel Rossetti.
Westgate, alas, has no such history, remaining but a twinkle in the developer’s eye until 1863 when the London, Chatham and Dover railway was extended to Margate. Nevertheless, from the very first two houses built at St Mildred’s Bay in 1865, the town blossomed necessitating a substantial church. With benevolence unknown today, the town’s developers generously donated a plot of land for the building of St Saviour’s Church, built in Kentish ragstone to a design by Charles Beazley; the church was finally opened and consecrated in 1884.
We learned much of Westgate’s history in a talk given by churchwarden and curator of the Westgate Heritage Centre, Dr Dawn Crouch, which also included details of the purchase and installation of the St Saviour’s organ. It was built and installed in 1886 by F H Browne & Sons of Deal, and was a 2-manual and pedal instrument of twenty-seven speaking stops with tracker action. Dr Crouch had interestingly extracted and copied the original invoice from the church archives for us, which revealed that its cost, including carriage, was £510 12s 0d. Only six years later, in 1892, a further four stops were added, together with a swell octave coupler, to complete the original design specification. At the same time an Hydraulic Engine and feeders were installed, which, together with the four new stops, cost the princely sum of £157 1s 8d.
The organ was subsequently overhauled in 1926 when pneumatic action was installed to replace the original mechanical tracker action. However, by the early 1960s the organ’s soundboards and action had deteriorated, greatly affected by the church heating, and the organ was fully rebuilt with direct electric action. As was the fashion at the time, and on reviewing the organ’s stop list, it was decided that there was a “preponderance of 8ft tone” and the Great large open diapason 8ft had to go. However, a 16ft oboe was added to the Swell and the pedal section had 8ft and 4ft extensions installed using the original pedal stops, together with a general tidying up of the specification. Thankfully, the Victorian painted and stencilled front pipes, which blend with the painted chancel, have been retained unchanged and the present organ specification is: Great Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 2/3 2 111 8; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 2 111 16 8 8 4 Tremulant; Pedal Organ, 16 16 102/3 8 8 8 4 16 with usual couplers.
Our KCOA member, Roy Rogers, although now retired as St Saviour’s organist, demonstrated the organ for us with: Five short Hymn Preludes by William Hunt and Postlude by Eric Thiman. The pieces were well chosen, demonstrating the gentle sweetness of the soft Swell stops and the warm Great diapason (the original open 11 of 1886) and gradually progressing through the specification to full organ at the end of the Thiman. The organ still retains its Victorian warmth and tonal colour especially in the reeds, although there is a suspicion that the mixture stops were recast during the 1960s rebuild as they stand tonally just a little apart from the organ’s Victorian character; nevertheless, this is a fine organ well voiced for the church.
After this very interesting visit it was time to discover the Parish Church of Birchington, which would have been simplicity itself had not the Electricity Board decided to excavate and close the road to All Saints’ car park. With their usual resourcefulness, members found places to park and All Saints’ organist Tim Attride welcomed us to this historic church. The organ is Edwardian, being built and installed in 1911 by Hopkins & Sons of York. Tim had thoughtfully copied and supplied a history of the organ for us. The fundamental tonality of the instrument was agreeably Edwardian although subsequent tonal changes have added a fifteenth to the Great Organ and a three rank mixture to the Swell, with the loss of an oboe. Tracker action gave way to pneumatic action in the 1930s, which in turn was changed to electric action in the 1980s. Its present specification is: Great Organ, 8 8 4 4 2; Swell Organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 2 111 8; Pedal Organ, 16 16 102/3 8 with usual couplers. Tim Attride demonstrated the organ for us with a selection of short pieces featuring the flutes, the beautifully beating Swell strings and the full chorus alternating with the closed full Swell, before culminating in full organ. All was well until the final full organ chords when the organ sadly ran out of wind, which had been caused by winter heating and subsequent timber shrinkage. However, the organ provided a pleasing ensemble suited to the building and we were indebted to Tim for demonstrating it for us. There was time for members to try the organ for themselves and inspect some of the historic church monuments before tea.
Westgate, Browne & Sons
Photo Colin Jilks
It had been arranged that Jennie Burgess, a specialist on the Pre-Raphaelites, was to give a talk on Dante Gabriel Rossetti, but she had taken a serious fall in the winter snow and was not well enough to attend. Gallantly, Tim Attride, using Jennie’s notes and slides, gave a very able talk on the life of Dante Rossetti, the poet and painter who was one of the founders of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in 1848, and is buried in the All Saints’ churchyard, having come to Birchington in poor health hoping to recuperate. The informative talk also mentioned Dante’s sister, Christina Rossetti, who wrote the words for the carol In the bleak midwinter.
This had been a well attended meeting with some thirty-five to forty members present who found much to enjoy and we must especially thank Roy Rogers at Westgate and Tim Attride at Birchington for arranging it for us.
The attractive village of Wrotham sits discreetly at the foot of the North Downs. It was once a thriving market town mentioned in the Domesday Book under its original name of ‘Broteham’ and, although now less bustling, remains a village steeped in history with its Parish Church of St George dating from ad964.
Little of the early church remains with the present building dating from the 12th and 13th centuries. Nevertheless, it is a building of grandiose proportions, with a nave that is as wide as it is long. Its chancel is divided from the nave by a gated 14th century wooden rood-screen, which somewhat obscures the view of the lofty 1883 Forster & Andrews organ standing in the chancel. Although only a modest two-manual and pedal instrument, its majestic case reaches to the chancel roof. It has been built standing against the chancel’s north wall arranged in tiers with the Swell organ set immediately above the Great organ and painted wooden pedal Bourdon 16ft pipes forming lofty side fronts. It has mechanical action throughout necessitating some very long tracker runs to the Swell and Pedal soundboards, although the action remains comfortable to play. The specification is: Great organ, 8 8 8 4 4 2; Swell organ, 8 8 8 4 11 8; Pedal organ, 16 8 with usual couplers. It has a trigger Swell pedal and four mechanical combination pedals, two for the Swell and two for the Great.
Wrotham, Forster & Andrews
Photo Colin Jilks
The organ is tonally of its period, with warm diapasons and flutes, although escaping the muddier diapason tones of later Forster & Andrews instruments. St George’s organist, Neil Rollings, whose recital programme was to fully stretch the instrument, demonstrated the organ for us with a dashing aplomb. Fantasia in C Minor BWV 562 by J S Bach showed the colourful Great diapason chorus to good effect, even though there is no Great mixture. The Toccatina by P. Yon made the Great flutes sing, a piece which takes advantage of the organ’s clean mechanical actions. Boëllmann’s Prière à Notre-Dame started with the gentlest of Swell strings before building through beautifully played crescendos and diminuendos, all the more impressive given the restricted playing aids of this original 1883 instrument. Neil concluded his enjoyable recital with Sortie in E flat major by A. Lefébure-Wély, with its contrasts, fun and frolics, skipping between manuals and the organ giving of its best. We must thank Neil for this most engaging recital.
After such excitement a good tea was undoubtedly welcome and St George’s did not disappoint us. Following tea, a goodly number of members were able to try and enjoy the organ for themselves. Perhaps the only regret of the afternoon was that the church tower had been closed to visitors owing to deterioration of its stonework. The view from the tower is reported to be impressive and a number of members had arrived suitably attired ready for the climb.
Nevertheless, there was the compensation of a quite fascinating talk given by Churchwarden, Brian Barker, on the history of the church and Wrotham. Of particular interest, in addition to the 14th century rood-screen, was the church vestry, adjacent to the sanctuary, which retains its original late medieval red tiled floor glowing with the patina of centuries and an ancient doorway, its stone step deeply worn by the pious passing of countless feet. Mystery surrounds the fine Jacobean oak pulpit of 1635, sold in 1800 for the sum of ten shillings, which is now in Sevenoaks Parish Church. It was replaced in 1850 by an imposing carved stone pulpit, with steps and brass handrail, given in memory of Blanche and Alice Lane, who died in 1860 and 1850 respectively, both daughters of Rev. Charles Lane MA who was Vicar of Wrotham from 1845-1879. Brian Barker’s talk was interestingly supplemented by Clive Thomas from Wrotham’s History Society with mention of the Pilgrim’s Way, the Domesday Book and, of course, ‘Broteham’. This had been an enthralling afternoon and we must thank Neil Rollings and Brian Barker for arranging it for us.
The coach outing for 2010 was brought forward to April 17th from its more traditional June slot, as Chichester were unable to accommodate us. What would the weather hold in store for this variable month? Would we encounter blizzards, wet and windy weather or be treated to a glorious spring day with warm sunshine? Perhaps the other uncertainty at the back of people’s minds due to board at Wrotham was would the coach arrive on time? We needn’t have worried as slightly before the appointed time the coach duly appeared and our day’s adventure began. Although early morning mist persisted for a while, by mid-morning the sun shone through and thereafter we were blessed with clear skies and warmth. Fortunately, no hold-ups ensued and we arrived in Arundel with time to spare.
Our first port of call was the Parish and Priory Church of St Nicholas – a church full of interest and unusual qualities. The Director of Music, Sarah Plumley, who has been in post for ten years, warmly welcomed us. In her introduction, she explained that the church is set in the Anglo-Catholic tradition and has a growing choir, delivering a Choral Evensong once a month. To demonstrate the 3-manual, 24-stop organ, which began life in 1817 and was last restored by J W Walker in 1991, Sarah gave us a fine rendition of Toccata in G by Dubois, which suited the instrument admirably. There then followed a generous time for members to explore the organ, examine the church in more detail or meander through the town. The unique feature of the church is the divided interior. Behind the altar is a glazed grille, which separates the parish church from what lies beyond — the Fitzalan Chapel that can only be accessed from Arundel Castle grounds. The other unusual feature is the 14th century carved stone pulpit, one of only six in the country from the pre-reformation period.
The organ - St. Nicholas Church, Arundel
Nicholas Plumley, Sarah’s husband, invited us to their nearby home to see and hear some of the Maltravers Music Collection, consisting of harpsichords, fortepianos and chamber organs. Because of space constraints, it was suggested we visit in three timed groups, either partaking of our lunch before or afterwards. This proved to be a fascinating visit and Nicholas demonstrated a number of the instruments, eloquently describing their history and qualities.
After a break for lunch, in some cases a hurried affair owing to the popularity of Arundel eateries on an enticing day, we re-assembled at Arundel Cathedral. Many were eager to hear this exciting instrument, particularly following its restoration by David Wells of Liverpool in 2006. The 3-manual west gallery organ, originally built by William Hill looked visually stunning with its rose pink pipework glowing in the sunshine streaming through the rose window. Elizabeth Stratford, the Director of Music, was on hand to demonstrate the organ and treated us to a fine extemporisation, which displayed its various tonal colours. When she took up her position in 2002, Elizabeth was the youngest cathedral organist appointed. Before members ventured into the loft, Andrew performed Berceuse and Carillon from Vierne’s 24 Pieces in Free Style, the second piece utilising the prominent horizontal trumpet.
Arundel Cathedral organ
Soon it was time to bid farewell to Arundel and we boarded the coach for the short journey to Chichester. Our driver was glad to have Dr Alan Thurlow on board, the previous organist of Chichester Cathedral, who had met us at Arundel and was able to guide us around the one-way system to a suitable drop-off point. We were ushered through to the refectory to enjoy a splendid tea, following which there was a good gap before Choral Evensong. As our visit coincided with the resident choir’s Easter break, the service was sung by the Cathedral Singers of Christ Church, Oxford, a voluntary choir numbering about 30 under the direction of their conductor John Padley. The music comprised:
Canticles Purcell in G minor
Anthem Hail, Gladdening Light – Wood
Voluntary Prelude in B major – Bach
This well-blended and balanced choir acquitted itself well and the service brought to an end its spell of duties there. The volcanic ash, with its effect on air travel, accounted for two notable absentees that day. The organ scholar at the cathedral, John Dilworth, who was due to demonstrate the organ, was detained in Ireland. The other was our illustrious Secretary, on tour with the Rochester Cathedral Voluntary Choir in Seattle, USA but stuck in Edmonton, Canada, leaving her poor husband to fend for himself for an extra week! Sarah Baldock, the Organist and Master of the Choristers, stepped into the breach and introduced us to the 4-manual, mainly Hill/Mander organ heard for the first time in 1986 after being silent for thirteen years. Members were then let loose on this magnificent instrument, before it was time to leave and wend our way back to Kent.
Photo Chris Clemence
A good day was had by all and thanks were expressed to Andrew Cesana for organising such an interesting and fulfilling programme.
After a number of successful years it is regrettable that it was necessary to postpone our Organ Festival in May owing to lack of entrants. It has been conceded that this can be a difficult time for youngsters with approaching exams and, with this in mind, it has been decided to rearrange the Festival this year for 30th October, with the hopeful expectation of more contestants.
Nevertheless, the afternoon meeting and ‘Festival Recital’ went ahead on 8th May as planned and members enjoyed a compelling few hours. Having heard Jonathan Hope last year, when he was the finalist at our 4th Organ Festival, we knew we would enjoy something special, and indeed we did.
However, before tea and the recital, we delighted in a DVD presentation by Lionel Marchant. With screen, projector and loudspeakers set up in the north chapel, we were presented with excepts from three ‘Priory’ DVDs: York Minster, with John Scott Whiteley; Lincoln Cathedral with Colin Walsh; and King’s College, Cambridge with Stephen Cleobury. These DVDs also include comprehensive descriptions of the organs by these eminent organists, and the sets come with a full CD sound version.
First, from York Minster, we saw and heard John Scott Whiteley playing Fantasia in F minor by Mozart, then a stunning performance of Variations on a theme of Paganini for pedals by Thalben-Ball. While we regained our mental equilibrium and Lionel changed the DVD in the projector, Colin Jilks ‘filled in’ with some observations on the organ specification and changes made over the years. Next it was Lincoln Cathedral with Colin Walsh playing: Prelude and Fugue in G major by Bach and Miserere by William Byrd, both engaging performances. Lastly, it was Stephen Cleobury and the organ of King’s College, Cambridge with Prelude and Fugue in D major by Bach and Master Tallis’s Testament by Howells. Here at King’s, although the 1660’s Dallam case has been religiously retained, nothing remains of the original organ, which is now mostly 20th century Harrison & Harrison. Nevertheless, the King’s College Chapel acoustic lends its own magical bloom, which is an advantage as Stephen Cleobury is not always the most arresting of players, although it must be said that this DVD recording is nothing but enjoyable. Lionel concluded his fascinating presentation with further details of these irresistibly worthwhile Priory DVD/CD sets, which are now available.
A full ‘traditionally English’ tea was laid in readiness for us at the back of the church with sandwiches, ‘cream tea’ scones and delicious cakes and a choice of tea or coffee. Elizabeth Marchant and her willing helpers had left nothing to chance and we must thank them for this mouth watering indulgence.
Jonathan Hope at Maidstone
Photo Colin Jilks
By 5.00 p.m. the All Saints’ organ console had been positioned in the nave ready for our ‘Festival Recital’ by Jonathan Hope. Jonathan was born in 1988 and brought up in Guildford Surrey, where he was educated at George Abbot School. His teachers have included Stephen Lacey and John Belcher, and he currently studies at the Royal College of Music with Margaret Phillips and Sophie-Véronique Chauchefer-Choplin, where he has also taken part in master classes with Pieter van Dijk, Gordon Stewart and Dame Gillian Weir. He has performed in venues across Britain, Europe and the USA and plans tours of Australia and the USA during 2010. Since May 2008, Jonathan has been Director of Music and Organist at John Keble Church, Mill Hill, London, where he presides over a mixed choir and the Henry Willis 111 organ. From 1st September he will be the organ scholar at Southwark Cathedral.
Jonathan’s recital was one of English music, apart from one piece by J S Bach. Introducing the programme he started with Fantisia in G minor op. 136 by York Bowen 1884-1961, which started, excitingly, with full organ and solo tuba, followed by gentle string passages and solo clarinet before further splendours with semi-quaver pedal runs. This music, with its Elgarian echoes, was English to the core and performed with a deeply felt flowing musicality.
John Stanley’s well known Voluntary No. 1 op. 5 provided a telling contrast with its four familiar movements, although the use of 4ft solo flutes instead of 8ft flutes, which Jonathan explained was the original concept, added a delightful lightness and colour to the music. J S Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F Minor BWV 534 was played with musical gusto and pedal reeds, a little in the style of W T Best, confessed Jonathan. His well balanced programme then returned us to a contemplative disposition with Adagio in E by Frank Bridge with its hushed strings building to full organ before finally finishing with the gentlest whisper.
The final work was Elgar’s Organ Sonata in G op. 28. Of the four movements, the first, Allegro maestoso, is perhaps the better known with its assertive Elgarian splendours. The Allegretto, with its singing melodies, leads into the Andanto espressivo, which shimmered with gentle beguiling strings and flutes before the final Presto (comodo), which Jonathan had confessed is perhaps not the easiest to play, before showing no concern in a faultless performance. It was utterly engaging with its majestic Elgarian gestures and phrases; music that stirs the soul and speaks unashamedly of our English heritage.
Jonathan’s mastery of the All Saints’ organ revealed the instrument’s manifold colours and textures in music performed with a stunning dexterity and musicality, all delivered with an overtly nonchalant ease. He is a musician who is endowed with that elusive ability to turn the basic prose of printed music into notes of sublime musical poetry. We must thank Jonathan not only for his wonderful recital but also his most informative and pleasant introductions. He did whisper afterwards that he would hope to enjoy a couple of beers later and, considering one of his interests outside music is real ale, he certainly deserved them.
Our visit to Goudhurst in June provided an extraordinary and unusual diversity, two venues as different as can be imagined, but both equally intriguing. First, a visit to Finchcocks, an enchanting early Georgian house of 1725, set in thirteen acres of lush Kentish parkland, and second, a visit to the workshops of N P Seymour, agricultural engineers; yes, there were organs at both locations, but as different as the buildings that housed them.
Fortepianist, Richard Burnett and his wife, Katrina, purchased Finchcocks in 1971 and, together with restoration of the house, founded the Adlam-Burnett instrument workshop with Derek Adlam. This enabled instrument makers to produce copies of historical keyboard instruments in an ideal environment, learning from the construction of the many originals Richard had started to collect. Finchcocks now houses over 100 historical keyboard instruments, which comprise the Katrina and Richard Burnett collection. These can be seen and heard whenever the house is open to the public and is one of the very few collections of historical instruments where people are welcome to play them.
Finchcocks' imposing front façade 1725
Photo Colin Jilks
Finchcocks website www.finchcocks.co.uk
We were greeted and introduced to the house and collection by Dr Alistair Laurence who runs Finchcocks’ Broadwood piano workshop, where instruments are restored to full playing condition. He invited us to try the instruments as we wished and there were three organs of interest: two small chamber organs dating from the 1700s, by unknown builders, and a substantial one-manual organ of 1766 by John Byfield of London. This eight-stop instrument is one of the best preserved chamber organs of the period, with a case complete with its opening “cabinet case” glass doors. The case was designed by John Adam who was responsible for the furniture at Castle Grant, Banffshire in Scotland, where the organ was first installed for James Grant the younger. Tonally it is an English delight, with woody flutes and warm diapasons, enhanced by generous mutation ranks producing infinite “Sesquialtera” colours.
John Byfield organ of 1766
Photo Colin Jilks
Having tried and heard many of the instruments we were introduced to Phyllis and Martin Clark, musicians from Norfolk who were engaged to give a concert the following day. It was an unscheduled bonus for us as they played the slow movement from Sonata in G by Franz Benda, Martin playing the collection’s 1756 Jacob Kirckman harpsichord and Phyllis a beautifully crafted copy of a 1745 wooden flute, both instruments set at the baroque pitch of A=415. Their playing and the delicacy of the instruments’ sound was utterly captivating.
On our way to view the piano workshop we were shown the gardens with their trim borders, lawns and what was once the kitchen garden. With its enclosing circular wall adding a sympathetic acoustic and suitably placed trees it is used for music in the pleasure gardens tradition. In a set of outbuildings, the piano workshop now houses a number of manufacturing tools brought from Challen’s piano factory in Archer Street, Camden Town before it finally closed, making Finchcocks’ workshop the last remaining piano workshop in the country. There were a number of interesting pianos being restored, with a small square piano of the late 1700s by Longman & Broderip, Musical Instrument Makers of Cheapside & Haymarket, producing some enthralling sounds.
John Broadwood piano 1801
Photo Colin Jilks
Before leaving Finchcocks it was wise to peruse the many CDs and booklets on sale in the shop. Richard Burnett, together with a number of musicians, has made recordings of many of the restored instruments in the collection, including the organs. These recordings, made during the past twenty-five years are a lasting legacy of Richard’s fine musicianship, with his stunning technique and delicacy of touch evoking the very best from these period instruments.
Some two miles east of Goudhurst are the workshops of N P Seymour, agricultural engineers. Yes, there is the usual farm machinery and other paraphernalia, including a 1928 ‘Fowler’ steam engine together with its electric generator. But also two organs: a ‘Westonian’ fairground organ built by Bursens of Antwerp in 1982 and a ‘Broadway’ Mortier dance organ of 1922. The Mortier was brought to England from Belgium in the 1950s, having been fully restored in 1946. However, it had not been well cared for during the intervening years, and although some remedial work was undertaken in the 1980s, it was in a poor condition when Nick Seymour acquired it, just a few years ago.
The curator of these two intriguing organs is our member, Alistair Curtis, who has undertaken most of the recent restoration of the Mortier himself, even making a completely new xylophone unit to replace one that was missing. Following a splendid tea we were led outside to hear the Bursens organ, sitting fetchingly, with its painted figures display, on its 7.5-ton lorry. The two pieces we heard were evocative of the hurly-burly of the fairground, gloriously loud but with an appealing musicality and tonal colour.
'Broadway' Mortier dance organ of 1922
Photo Colin Jilks
The Mortier, however, is permanently sited inside the main storage building. Alistair gave us a brief history of the organ and the major restoration work the organ has undergone. Many of the wooden pipes had been damaged by damp, causing their seams to come unglued. The bellows required full restoration and the pneumatic tubing has been completely replaced. Following repairs, the case has been restored and painted, the pipes cleaned and buffed, before tuning and regulating the complete organ, including its fully functioning piano accordion.
The result was demonstrated in a number of spectacular pieces, which had staid church organists tapping their toes like ageing jazz devotees in an instinctive response to the organ’s primeval tonality and strident rhythms. Yes, these organs, with their biting high-pressure reeds, ample flutes and crashing percussion, have an innate tonal vulgarity, which is undoubtedly their appeal. Alistair showed us the punched card books which play the organ’s action and also the ‘midi’ computer inputs which has allowed Alistair to produce some of his own arrangements; one was Knightsbridge March by Eric Coates, which suited the organ admirably.
We must thank Nick Seymour for allowing us access to these two wonderful organs and of course Alistair Curtis for arranging the whole afternoon for us; an afternoon that had taken us from the elegance of Georgian England to the robust bawdiness of the continental dance hall.
It had been little more than a year since we last visited Otford, with its listed status duck pond and ancient timbered houses. This was for the convenience of the AGM, which is an annual necessity ensuring the smooth running of the Association. It had, however, the bonus of us hearing St Bartholomew’s Church Choir, conducted by our President, Kevin Grafton, Organist and Director of Music. Also, Richard Knight gave us a conducted tour of Otford’s scale model Solar System, built as a millennium project depicting the relative positions of the sun and planets at one minute past midnight on 1st January 2000.
The choir, comprising eight ladies and seven men, sang a demanding programme ranging from the 16th to 20th centuries. Beginning with early music, we heard Exsultate justi by Lodovico Viadana c1560-1627, then Sicut cervus (Psalm 42, Like as the hart) by Giovanni da Palestrina, the sustained phrases of the period captured very effectively by the choir. Eduard Ebel’s Leise rieselt der Schnee, was followed by Dormi, Jesu by John Lawson Baker, a past member of the Association now living at Ely, its gentle 20th century cadences falling pleasantly on the ear. Gaudete!, from Piae Cantiones 1582, was excitingly embellished by Kevin’s drum beat accompaniment on an Irish Bodhran, before mopping perspiration from his brow to continue with Otche nash (The Lord’s Prayer) by Antony Arensky, with some beautifully hushed singing. Beati quorum via by Charles Villiers Stanford is always well received and was sung here with some exquisitely controlled dynamics. John Tavener’s The Lamb led to a rousing conclusion with O thou, the central orb by Charles Wood, the choir thoroughly enjoying its fortissimo climaxes underpinned by full organ.
This had been a most enjoyable concert, which was followed by a generous tea before a slide presentation of the Organ Club’s 2009 visit to Paris, with pictures by Richard Knight. Richard’s description of the organs and buildings was particularly interesting and his knowledge of the venues extensive, all delightfully delivered without notes.
Our AGM was a smooth formality with officers and three new committee members elected. The financial report was well received showing a balanced account, allowing our subscriptions to remain unchanged this year. With the sad loss of several members this year, the inevitable consequence of an elderly membership, we now have just 100 subscribing members, and there was discussion on how we should increase our numbers, especially with younger organists.
In March 2010 an informal supper took place at All Saints’, Maidstone, by the kindness of Lionel and Elizabeth Marchant. This was an additional social event brought about by my unavoidable absence from the President’s Dinner, and was entirely at Lionel’s instigation, for which I am incredibly grateful. On this occasion both my wife Sylvia, having thankfully made a good recovery from her heart attack, and I attended. Although numbers were rather lower than for the Dinner in September, those present, seated at tables in the spacious chancel of All Saints, enjoyed a wonderful meal, with a choice of main courses and a multitude of salads, and then a selection of sumptuous puddings and coffee. This was followed by a struggling attempt at an impromptu speech by myself, which at least managed to raise a few laughs, though I have no doubt that Scott Farrell was better value!
Lionel Marchant, who has been working tirelessly over recent months transcribing our pre-digital Journals for our KCOA website, continually updates the site with news of recitals and concerts. We are particularly grateful for Lionel’s work and he would be pleased if you might take a look, if you have not visited the site recently; indeed the profile of Gordon Chapman, in our February 2000 Journal, is worthy of your attention in itself.
After the 2009 Festival the committee felt that they had truly launched the competition. How wrong we were! We reluctantly postponed the date from May BUT it is now booked for Saturday 30th October 2010.
The adjudication will start at 5.00 p.m. enabling Dr David Flood to honour his commitment to Evensong in Canterbury Cathedral. Also, the day will be set aside for competitors to have their rehearsal hour during the morning and early afternoon, which for some who travel a long distance may be an encouragement.
We hope that many of you will join us for tea at 4.00 p.m. in All Saints, Maidstone (please book it with Rosemary as usual) and then support the young organists in their endeavour to win a prize, but above all to have the comments and advice from David Flood.
Our Patron, Margaret Phillips, like the committee, is surprised by the lack of pupils being entered by the membership of the KCOA, and we therefore ask you all to publicise this event as widely as possible. Word of mouth is invaluable.
I have been asked to record some of my memories of organs and organists whom it was my good fortune to encounter as an avid young devotee of our instrument.
It is a long time ago that I found myself one summer Saturday afternoon emerging from the West door of King’s College Chapel, Cambridge, having just heard Harold Darke (who had taken over at King’s from Boris Ord) play the ‘Dorian’ Toccata & Fugue at the end of Evensong.
I was up for the organ scholarship at Queens’ next door. I had been told I was to be examined by a Mr Middleton. He turned out to be Dr Hubert Middleton, organist of Trinity College and successor of Alan Gray and Stanford. He was very impressive, white haired even then, and plainly of a powerful intellect, though perfectly pleasant to me. He sat on a chair beside the organ bench with his head below the level of the keys and watched my feet. It was a bit unnerving.
Sometime later he showed me the organ at Trinity, at that time a sprawling Harrison 4 manual with the Pedal 32ft Flue standing against the West wall in the Ante-chapel. Amongst the stop knobs was one labelled Bombardon 32ft. This, to Dr Middleton’s chagrin, had never been installed, as it was feared that it would probably have caused the Chapel to collapse! But it was nevertheless a most impressive sound as he demonstrated with Mozart’s Fantasia in F minor from memory. Talking about organ playing he said one could always tell if it was going to be good from the first bar.
He was also the University Organist, which involved the duty to play the Hymn, which preceded the University Sermon every Sunday in Great St Mary’s Church, on the historic but dusty and wheezy old Father Smith organ on the gallery at the West end of the church, which belonged to the University. It had been last rebuilt by Hill in 1870, and I remember it as having a somewhat asthmatic sound, and the management of it involved frequent bangs and noises off. It was not very effective for the accompaniment of congregational singing.
At that time there were only three Cambridge colleges with professional choirs, Trinity, John’s and King’s. At John’s, Herbert Howells had been appointed temporary organist when Robin Orr was called up. They sang only Matins and Evensong on Sundays during term. The men’s parts were sung by a few choral scholars and some College staff, whilst there were 14 boys at a choir school who sang from six enormous leather bound volumes — some of the contents in manuscript — three to a side. The three boys in the centre sang from one volume whilst the two boys either side shared one each. Little interest was shown in the services by members of the college and the congregations tended to be pretty meagre.
The organ at that time was as it had been left by Harrison’s 1922 rebuild of the old Hill instrument which itself probably incorporated the organ from the old chapel designed by Walmisley (of D minor fame!). It was a typical 3 manual of about 40 stops. The console was in the organ gallery on the North side, the player also facing North with his back to the choir and no visible contact at all.
I spent most Sundays turning the pages in the organ loft at John’s. Dr Howells never played any organ music, everything was improvised. For special occasions he produced a splendid tune which he said was the Russian National Anthem of the Kerensky government. He claimed to be the only person who knew it, and promised to write it down for me — but it never got done.
He was always disarmingly self-deprecating about his organ playing — in comparison to G D Cunningham and Thalben-Ball — but he did aver that, like his idol R Vaughan Williams, he had passed his FRCO by examination! I particularly remember one dark winter Evensong when they sang “Behold all flesh is as the grass” from Brahms Requiem for the anthem. It was spine tingling. He carried it off splendidly, but did say rather off-handedly afterwards that he had ‘had a look at it beforehand!’. We then went off to his rooms to eat toast and marmalade sitting on the floor in front of his gas fire.
He was at that time a most handsome man, small, hair still dark, immaculately turned out in dark suit with blue shirts which I admired immensely, a gold hunter watch, carefully placed on the key bench before the service, a beautifully modulated voice, and a light rapid step which I can still hear ascending to the organ loft at the last minute.
He was very active in adjudicating at competitive Festivals, and said to me one morning rather ruefully “Do you know, Chapman, yesterday was my fiftieth birthday and I spent it listening to nine young ladies spoiling one of my songs!” Always a great admirer of RVW, one day when we had sung “For all the Saints” to Sine Nomine, he just sat on the stool and said “One just cannot imagine the world without that tune”.
His previous career had taken him away from organ lofts for quite a while, but I wonder whether his reconnection with them at John’s did not constitute a new stimulus for composing church music. New anthems and the famous settings of the Canticles began to appear then.
Getting into the organ loft at King’s was more difficult; they did not encourage visitors. I did manage one or two visits, and I recall one occasion when Harold Darke was playing, when the rather alarming figure of Boris Ord, then in the RAF stationed somewhere in East Anglia, appeared up the stairs. Dr Darke accompanied the service, and his treatment of the Psalms was heavenly. Every verse a change of colour — with and without pedal, strings, flutes, a little reed solo, a touch of 32ft often with an added melody above the trebles and all blended together with masterly use of the Swell boxes. Painting the words of the psalms doesn’t seem to be done so much these days. I remember the wonderful George Heath-Gracie at Derby saying that if, by the time you had been through all those verses about “all manner of flies ....and....lice in all their quarters”, the congregation weren’t all scratching, you had not been doing your job properly! Looking over the parapet, Boris muttered to me “You can always tell the Altos are lost when they bury their heads in the books”.
At that time conducting in the service did not happen. If the anthem was unaccompanied the organist crept down during the collects and placed himself in the stalls alongside the end chorister on the south side. No hand waving, a slight finger movement, but mostly just looking — which meant no buried heads.
After the service Boris played the Franck A minor Chorale. I particularly remember at the big climax in the middle, how he hung onto the Pedal E and produced a magical diminuendo by scampering precipitately down all the Great and Swell pistons in turn with alternate thumbs — and the King’s acoustic did the rest. Then he dropped down to the Choir with Swell coupled for the final section. I was scandalised — I had never seen an organ treated like that before!
Another notable music figure at the time was Patrick Hadley. He conducted C.U.M.S., a fairly large mixed chorus and orchestra of students in which I sang for two concerts. The first was a performance of Vaughan Williams’ ‘Dona Nobis Pacem’ — to be conducted by the composer — Britten’s recently composed ‘Hymn to St. Cecilia’, and Hadley’s own ‘The Travellers’.
At the final rehearsal I wandered out of the Hall into the corridors for some fresh air, and was horrified to see that some dishevelled old tramp had got into the building. I looked around hastily for an attendant to eject him, when I was more horrified to see him enter the Hall itself and make for the front. I could hardly believe my eyes when he embraced Isobel Baillie, and then the penny dropped — it was of course RVW himself. I have never been so surprised.
It is naturally a great memory to have had the experience of singing on such an occasion. I have never heard the Hadley work performed since, but I seem to remember the final pages where all hell is let loose with the Chorus and organ in 4/4 and the orchestra playing in 12/8!
For the second concert we sang the B minor Mass in King’s Chapel. At one rehearsal the Sops were having some difficulty with that tricky high bit in F sharp minor in the third Kyrie when Dr Hadley suddenly exploded, took a flying leap down off the rostrum onto the floor which he hit with a terrifying crash because he had lost one leg in the First World War, shook his fist at the poor Sops and shouted out “You Ccc…Cambridge women!” There was — as it says in the Newbolt poem — “a dreadful hush”.
We had the usual Isobel Baillie et al line up for soloists; but a rumour went round the choir that they had discovered a wonderful new alto soloist. Imagine our emotions at the dress rehearsal to first set eyes and ears on a young lady called Kathleen Ferrier.
It was a great culmination to a privileged period during which I had myself occupied Stanford’s old rooms in College — he having been Organ Scholar of Queens’ in 1870, before he decamped to Trinity — and also had the opportunity to observe such notable figures in the world of Church Music.
I must confess the comparable luminaries in Engineering — which I was supposed to be studying — have not so lingered in my memory!
Gordon Chapman was President of our Association 1984-1985 and also a Director of F H Browne & Sons organ builders.
St Mary’s Church, Platt
This month’s cover features my own church, St Mary’s Platt, which the KCOA visited last November. My cover photographs over the years have featured cases and case fronts from organs of all shapes and sizes from the 17th century to the present date.
This month’s cover is different, and shows not just a case front, but the main Platt organ in the South transept of the church as seen from the west tower gallery with the horizontal en-chamade trumpets featuring in the foreground.
This picture serves to illustrate, firstly, how organs evolve over the years. The late 18c or early 19c case front remains (with replaced pipework) as a north facing façade, but the side of the organ is a 16 foot pipe rack probably erected when the organ was brought to Platt in 1926. Note the wooden pipe adjacent to the case front, which is now non-speaking. The reason for this is odd. When I arrived at Platt in 1969, the Pedal Open Diapason contained the lowest twelve (and most expensive) metal pipes and then, bizarrely, completed its compass in wood! This produced a very noticeable change in tone quality at tenor C sharp, so in our 1983 rebuild, the rank was completed in metal, with a seamless join. All well and good, but the length of the replacement pipes did not reach the support rail, so the two wooden pipes were left in-situ but non-speaking.
Photo Gary Tollerfield
Secondly, the picture demonstrates how Platt organ speaks directly into the church, which has a good acoustic for music and an echo of just over one second when empty. It is often said that the best stop on an organ is the building. That statement is unfair to the skills of the organ builder, but a building can and does add another dimension by the way sound is blended. This is all very subjective, but at Platt we are fortunate and the church is used for professional recording. Many organists, like me, love St Paul’s Cathedral organ because of what the ten second echo does to it. Others dislike the “mush” of sound, which obliterates detail. For many, Westminster Cathedral acoustic is wonderful, and so is Coventry, but who remembers the Festival Hall before its recent facelift? This is an interesting study in itself, but if Platt organ were in the “chamber” so often provided by the Victorians, it would not be the organ I have played for over forty years and love so much.
Notes from the
The redirected envelope bore a Swedish stamp but no name, the letterhead read Eesti Orelisõprade Ühingu but the letter itself was in English, a request for help in translating Dutch terms pertaining to the innards of an organ. (It actually referred to internal orga’ns namings but I think I caught the gist.) Now it does not really surprise me that there is an Organ Society in, or of, Estonia but I did wonder by what concatenation of tortuous re-routings the communication had ended up in my P.O. Box. But then my musings were necessarily curtailed as I received two other communications the next day, via the Internet – in much more idiomatic English and requiring immediate attention. Both emanated from our editor, reminding me ever so gently that my offering for the August Journal was almost overdue (my italics). And so to work. No doubt because I am writing on the eve of the I.A.O. annual congress, my mind is occupied by thoughts about the existence of organ(ists’) societies and associations in general. There will probably be more than 60 of them represented in Brighton next week.
Here in The Netherlands the K.V.O.K., which functions in many ways like the I.A.O., comprises 14 separate ‘divisions’. Of these, one of the most enterprising is surely – and this is a dangerously personal opinion – the Limburg association, the S.O.L., in the very south of the country and it is not difficult to see why when one considers the unique potential afforded by its geographical situation. The province of Limburg has borders with Germany and Belgium and the area contained within the triangle Maastricht - Liège - Aachen has been the theatre of many historically significant cultural developments during the period that organs have featured in Western civilisation. Religious rivalry, especially, has enriched the region’s organ heritage to a marked extent. The S.O.L. coordinates the planning of organ recitals by more than 30 local ‘circles’ within the Dutch province of Limburg and publishes an annual diary of organ recitals throughout the whole of this so-called Euregion Meuse-Rhine. This year the S.O.L. has, for the 19th consecutive year, organized a summer Organ Festival, a whole month with several concerts and other activities every day. Yesterday, for instance, I took the train to Maastricht, according to all except the residents of Nijmegen the oldest town in the country. At one o’clock we heard a recital in the 1,000-year-old Basilica of Our Lady (Slevrouwe in the local, quintessentially incomprehensible dialect). The organ was originally built in 1652 by Andries Severijn (to use the Dutch spelling) of Liège. We then walked a short distance to hear Frescobaldi, Froberger, Bruna and Cabanilles in the Walloon church with its near-contemporary instrument by Remigius Ancion of Huy (one of the ‘Bonnes Villes’ of the former Prince-Bishopric of Liège). Another walk then took us to revel in the sounds of the 1808 Binvignat in the Gothic Matthiaskerk where we were treated to Scarlatti and an in every way exemplary Gloria from Couperin’s Messe pour les Couvents; and so on St. Servaas for Mendelssohn and Vierne. We had one organist, Marcel Verheggen, playing music from four centuries in programmes lasting from about 20 to about 40 minutes on four organs, immaculately played, the articulation enviably suited to each of the instruments featured. At least 100 people of all ages turned up, on an ordinary Wednesday afternoon.
Such an afternoon illustrates to my mind the inherent character of a successful organists’ association. Some interest in organ-playing, organ music or organ-building must obviously be considered a sine qua non for voluntary membership but to what extent could the 100-plus participants individually be considered organists? It can be surmised that we were all to some extent privy to the cultural purport of the organ-builder’s craft, whether our interest be in architecture, musical history, acoustical phenomena in large enclosed spaces or visual art. All these were allocated their dues around a nucleus of sublime music, gloriously interpreted. The object of our collective interest dictates by its very nature that we go to it rather than that it comes to us. How different an organists’ association is to a coterie of, say, philatelists or numismatists! Here too there is probably – to the enthusiast – as much history lurking away behind the objects of their passion but in our chosen instrument we have ‘the king’ whilst they have to make do with his image.
Whatever their interest, visitors to Amsterdam need never be at a loss for something to see. In the centre of the town is a church of special interest to cross-channel visitors as English-language services have been held there almost weekly since 1607 (the church is actually one of the oldest buildings in the city). This ‘English Reformed church’, and indeed the beguinage in which it is situated, has a fascinating history which is closely nourished by the country’s religious turmoil. Its organ, completed in 2000, was built by one of our foremost organ-builders. It is however a reconstruction of an earlier instrument built for the church in 1753 by another famed builder and is therefore commonly referred to as the Müller-Flentrop organ. Before returning to the hurly-burly of modern Amsterdam nearby, side-step into the chapel on the ground floor of the beguinage itself. Since the beginning of this year they have a seven-stop, one-manual Cavaillé-Coll (with pull-downs) dating originally from 1879 which, of course, also has its own history. I was always very fond of this instrument in its previous home and was devastated when, in 2006, someone left the console light on with the shutters closed and the instrument caught fire, irreparably damaging the keyboard and much of the pipework. Now the vanished pipework has been reconstructed and the casework carefully restored by Adema’s Kerkorgelbouw.
Ask a Dutchman where Elburg is and he may well stand and scratch his head. But, I assure you, this small Hanseatic town genuinely exists, on what used to be called the Zuiderzee. Visitors to The Netherlands cannot but be impressed by the sheer scale of Cornelis Lely’s land-reclamation project between 1919 and 1986 so the whole area has become not only fertile agricultural land but an important destination for well-informed tourists. If you are one of these, try to find Elburg. At 11.30 on Tuesdays in the summer you will be able to hear the organs in the St. Nicolaaskerk, where short ‘market concerts’ (a Dutch speciality) are given, and in the centre of the town there is the Nationaal Historisch Orgelmuseum (check the opening times!). You will not find an enormous collection of playable organs but the displayed photos, pipework and models will deepen your understanding of Dutch national organ-building. The museum also sells publications, recordings and second-hand sheet music. And, for the devotee, there is also a display of postage stamps with pictures of organs!
Victoria (Vicky) Shepherd
1938 – 2010
In our February Journal we reported that Vicky had been in the William Harvey Hospital over Christmas and January, but was making good progress. So it came as an unbelievable shock to hear that in fact she died on 14th February.
She had already retired as organist at Ospringe Parish Church after thirty-two years, and her funeral and a memorial service were held there. Then on 23rd April a service entitled A Celebration of the life and work in and around Faversham of Vicky Shepherd was held at St Mary of Charity Parish Church.
There was a huge congregation which included the President and members of the KCOA, and the service was conducted by the Rev’d Canon Anthony Oehring, assisted by the Rev’d Penny Fenton. Dr David Flood played the organ and the Choristers of Canterbury Cathedral took part. The hymns and organ music were Vicky’s favourites. One of her nieces spoke about her aunt, and another sang, as did two choir members from Ospringe. Her wide range of interests and service to the town of Faversham were shown in generous and sometimes amusing tributes paid by representatives of the Friends of Faversham Cottage Hospital, the Almshouse Trust, and the Faversham Society. All spoke of her willingness to help, her cheerfulness, and radiant smile.
Vicky’s profile appeared in the February 2008 Journal. We will remember her with great affection, and are all the poorer for her passing.
Philip Hubert Hamond Moore GRSM LRAM
Philip was at our meeting at Wrotham on 13th March so it came as a great shock to his friends in the KCOA to learn that two days later he was taken ill, and after a series of strokes and heart operations died in St Thomas’ Hospital on 18th April.
He was Organist and Choirmaster at All Saints’, West Farleigh, and St Mary’s, Hunton, where a Service of Thanksgiving was held on 5th May, following a private burial. The church was full, and our Association was well represented. At the request of his daughters Brian Moore was the organist.
Philip was born in Maidstone and educated at Maidstone Grammar School for Boys. His great passion was music and the piano, and he played at Hunton before joining the Royal Academy of Music.
For many years, Philip taught piano for the Kent Music School, and returned to West Farleigh and Hunton. He was also appointed an Associated Board Examiner, travelling extensively in the Far East. Members will recall that his wife, Kathleen, died in September, 2008, after suffering from cancer for eleven years, during which time Philip gave her loving and unstinting support. In recent years he attended our meetings regularly, and was a committee member. His kindly and courteous presence will be greatly missed.
Philip was devoted to his three daughters and four grandchildren, and his loss will leave an enormous gap in their lives as indeed it will among the people of Hunton and West Farleigh who loved and respected him as a musician and friend.
Dr Allan Wicks CBE
1923 – 2010
We regret to record the death of Dr Allan Wicks on 4th February. He will be remembered in Kent particularly as Organist of Canterbury Cathedral 1961 – 1988, and obituaries and tributes have appeared in the national press and musical journals. A personal tribute by Nicholas King will be included in our February Journal.
Jonathan was the winner of our 4th Organ Festival held in May 2009, and part of his prize was to give a recital in Canterbury Cathedral. This took place after Evensong on 19th February, and was much enjoyed by those present, including KCOA members, family, friends, a former organ tutor and two teachers from George Abbot School, Guildford, his old school.
Although still studying at the RCM, Jonathan is building up a splendid reputation as a recitalist His well balanced programme on this occasion was:
Introduction and Passacaglia
Robert Schumann Study in B minor
J S Bach Fantasia and Fugue in G minor BWV 542
Percy Whitlock Scherzetto (Organ Sonata)
Franz Liszt Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H. S260
Photo Brian Moore
After a well paced and powerful performance of the Reger, the Schumann Study was played with grace and charm, using flutes and a quiet diapason. In the Bach Fantasia and Fugue Jonathan used the big choruses and reeds of the organ to great effect, with gentleness and wit returning in the Whitlock.
In his programme, Jonathan fully exploited the considerable resources of the organ with great technical assurance and bravura, especially in the Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H. This opened with massive chords and continued dramatically and fearlessly to a thunderous conclusion, sending us on our way thrilled and uplifted.
Since he is now over 21, Jonathan will no longer be eligible to enter our Organ Festivals, so we take this opportunity of wishing him every success, and look forward to seeing him prosper and following his achievements with interest.
Richard Knight was born in Wimbledon on 20th September 1945 into the brave new world of hope and expectation as the war ended and the ensuing General Election gave Clement Attlee a 145-seat Labour majority. Both Richard’s parents had played a full part in the war with his mother a Wren and his father a Research Scientist attached to the Admiralty specialising in optics, which were used in a number of wartime applications. One was submarine periscopes where, apparently, the refractive index of glass used in the tropics was quite different from the glass used in more temperate regions.
Richard lived at Wimbledon until the family moved to Petts Wood, near Orpington in 1948. He has two younger sisters, one just 18 months younger and the other some five years younger. The family attended Petts Wood Congregational Church, a lively and growing church led by a charismatic minister who had seen war service and “knew the world”, as his mother often remarked. At Sunday school, Richard remembers the telling of Old Testament stories brought to life with dramatic enthusiasm.
His primary education was at St. Nicholas CofE School in Chislehurst where, at the age of seven and following a recruitment drive by the vicar, he joined the church choir. Sundays were fully occupied with two morning services, afternoon Sunday school and Evensong. Joining the choir exposed Richard to the organ: a 3-manual and pedal 1873 Forster & Andrews whose musical grandeur, sound and mechanics he found utterly captivating. Another seed planted at the time was church architecture, which, together with organs, has remained an abiding fascination.
His father was a pianist and, with a small grand piano at home, Richard started piano lessons at the age of eight. His membership of the church choir ended, perhaps, prematurely when he was about ten, as he moved from the cubs to the scouts and choir practice clashed with the scout meetings making it impossible to attend both. Also, he was due to move on to secondary education at Sevenoaks School when, at the age of eleven, he commuted daily by train to Sevenoaks from Petts Wood.
Enthusiasm for the piano began to wane a little, but he persevered to enable him to move to the organ when he was sixteen. His organ teacher was Ronald Brunker who was the organist of the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, where Richard was fortunate to have his lessons. Ronald Brunker lived in Petts Wood and was acquainted with the family. With organ practice in mind his mother approached the elders at the Congregational Church to arrange the possible use of their electronic organ. The response was not encouraging, “Yes, when the cleaner was there at 4:00 p.m. on a Thursday for an hour, at 2/6d per session”. His mother was rightly horrified and Richard had only two sessions. After approaching St. Francis CofE, he was given unlimited free access to their 2-manual and pedal pipe organ.
Organ lessons and regular practice continued for some two years until Richard left school and moved on to Hull University to read Botany and Zoology, when organ lessons became rather spasmodic, being confined to university holiday times. Following Hull, Richard took a short course in Farm Management at Askham Bryan Agricultural College at York, which enabled him to gain employment on an interesting well managed 1,200-acre farm some nine miles south west of York.
Richard married in 1969 having met his wife at University. They have two daughters, Emma, now aged 38, living in Beckenham with three young sons, and Laura aged 36 who lives near Melbourne, Australia with her partner.
Although Richard thoroughly enjoyed his time in agriculture there were great changes taking place in the industry. With farm amalgamations, industrialisation and bigger and better machines all bringing the inevitable contracting workforce, rustic charm became a distant memory. Struggling to raise a family, Richard returned south in 1978 and settled in Bromley joining his father in a business venture that he had recently acquired, involving supplies for screen-printing and textiles. Following his father’s retirement, Richard continued to run the business for another 32 years and has only recently sold it to retire.
Richard divorced in 1986, marrying again in 1998 and living with Anne in Otford. He has kept bees for 28 years, although has just two hives at present. He is the Treasurer of the Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells Branch of the Kent Beekeepers’ Association, which is the largest branch in Kent with 128 members. Richard has also been on the local Parish council for the last eight years.
In October 2002 Richard came on our KCOA coach trip to Ypres, which encouraged him to become a member of our Association. Membership of the Association has inspired him to take up organ lessons again and these are arranged through the St Giles International Organ School. He has had lessons with Henry Fairs but is currently with Tom Bell, the lessons generally held at St. Peter’s church, Limpsfield, on its Hill Norman & Beard modern tracker organ. Richard feels fortunate to be able to practise at St Bartholomew’s Church, Otford, which is a short stroll away and where our President, Kevin Grafton is Organist and Choirmaster.
Photo Colin Jilks
He has been putting his playing to good use, recently being asked to play for Anne’s nephew’s wedding at a church in Bethnal Green. Richard, our President Elect, is a much regarded member of our KCOA committee and a regular face at meetings, where he confesses he is still utterly captivated and a little overawed by the grandeur and compelling sounds of some of the fine organs we visit.
Front cover Gary Tollerfield
Others: Colin Jilks, Brian Moore, Chris Clemence
Sub Editors: Brian Moore & David Brock
"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".