Kent County Organists’ Association
August 2013 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
From your President
Francis Gordon Chapman
Janus looks West
Notes from the
Review of recent Meetings
Bishopsbourne & Barham
City of London
Horsmoden & Brenchley
Trottiscliffe & Ryarsh
Tunbridge Wells & Frant
Upchurch & Newington
Rainham St. Margaret
By Nicholas King
I AM GREATLY honoured to have been elected as your President for the next two years. “ Who he?” some may ask. I was born, bred and trained in East Kent, singing in the choir of Folkestone Parish Church under Reginald Adams, four times President of the Association, before succeeding him there. My subsequent career has gone in other directions (the August 2011 edition of the Journal has fuller information), but I have always held on to my Kent roots.
I t is a considerable privilege to have the opportunity of following in my first teacher’s exalted footsteps, and I have been glad in recent years to renew my involvement with the Association, of which my membership dates back forty years. I should like to pay especial trib- ute to the work of my immediate predecessor, Richard Knight, who has worked indefatigably for the benefit of the Association, both in its monthly visits and in the annual Festival, such an important part of our present ministry towards the next generation.
I have been glad, too, to meet many members at recent meetings and to form new friendships as well as renewing old. One thing which has come through very strongly is a wish to see more meetings in the eastern part of the county, and plans for the coming year should go some way towards addressing that issue. Almost half of our membership live in that area, and it is fair comment that several of them feel somewhat disenfranchised lately; indeed, most of our losses at annual renewal time seem to reflect this.
We shall also be developing the very popular day trips in London, visiting three interesting churches within a close footprint; and those who baulk at the distance involved in the annual excursion further afield may be glad to know that we intend to include comfort breaks and visits on the line of route next year.
Behind the scenes, whilst our finances are in good shape, thanks to the excellent work of Kevin Grafton, it would be comforting to know that we can increase our reserves so as to maintain existing subscription levels in the future and provide greater support for the annual Festival. We shall be investigating the prospect of registering the Association for charitable status, so that gift aid can be claimed on subscriptions and donations. This will require some small modifications to our Constitution, so ably updated by Roger Gentry during his Presidency, and I hope to bring appropriate proposals to the next Annual General Meeting.
I am also hoping to set up a biennial President’s Recital, to be given in a major local venue by a prestigious visitor (or even the President himself); and a number of other plans are fertilising for discussion by your Committee, the importance of whose input to the Association cannot be over-stated.
I look forward to meeting more of you in the coming months, particularly at the President’s Dinner on 21st September. However, Nigel Durrant, from Eindhoven is one of our members who is particularly in our thoughts at present as he has been in hospital recently for a further serious operation. We send him our good wishes, thanking him for his fascinating articles which are greatly appreciated.
DESPITE the snow on 19th January nearly twenty members made it to St Mark’s Church, Broadwater Down, Tunbridge Wells, where we were met by the church organist, David Gurney, who gave us a brief talk on its history. Paid for by Earl Abergavenny at a cost of some five to six thousand pounds, and opened by the Countess in 1866, it was built using sandstone from the Earl’s own quarry, and the ornate foliage on the carved capitals is reputedly based on specimens from his estate. The east end apse exhibits a floral painted wooden roof, and the spire is the tallest building in Tunbridge Wells.
To demonstrate the J W Walker organ David called upon the services of Simon Daniels, organist of St Barnabas, Tunbridge Wells, who played Master Tallis’s Testament by Howells. The organ’s specification is: Great organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 111 8; Swell organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 11 8 8; Choir organ, 8 8 8 4 8; Pedal organ, 32 16 16 8 8, with usual couplers. The rich and weighty sound of this 1867 Walker organ suited the music well, and Simon made good use of the orchestral colours and loud Tromba found on the choir manual, which was added in 1928 by Rushworth & Dreaper.
A few miles south lays the village of Frant, where St Alban’s church had a little more snow than St Mark’s, but was just as warm inside. Organist Peter DeCroos gave us a short talk on the church before demonstrating the organ with an enthusiastic Hornpipe Humoresque by Rawsthorne, followed by an improvisation. The present church, by John Montier, replacing a small medieval church and completed in 1821,
Broadwater Down, Walker Photo A Curtis
was enlarged in 1867. There is an ornate railed gallery at the west end where the first organ by William Pilcher stood in 1848 before it was replaced by a new organ built by Gern in 1891. This was sub- sequently moved to its present position in the north chancel chamber, but after it failed on Christmas Day 1966 the new organist, Leonard Lazell, discovered its historical importance and Wood Wordsworth & Co. of Leeds restored and enlarged the organ adding the classical Positive division and extending the pow- erful Trumpet rank. The organ was most recently rebuilt by F.H. Browne in 2007 with new solid state action technology.
August Gernnameplate, Frant Photo C Clemence
I ts specification is: Great organ; 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 11 8 4; Swell organ, 8 8 8 4 2 111 16 8; Positive organ, 8 4 2 11/3 11 (Ses.) 8 8; Pedal organ, 32 16 16 8 8 4 16 16 8 4, with usual couplers.
Wales and the West Country had suffered heavy falls of snow, and its rapid westerly progress fortunately halted as it reached the Kent border allowing Tunbridge Wells to escape with just a picturesque dusting: it was reported that West Sussex was less fortunate.
THE QUI N TESSEN T IAL English villages of Bishopsbourne and Barham nestle quietly in the Elham valley some four miles south of Canterbury; under cold grey February skies they struggled to give of their best, although their intrinsic character and charm is difficult to conceal.
On 16th February Rev Stephen Hardy welcomed us to St Mary’s Church, Bishopsbourne, with its many and varied historical features, including mediaeval stained glass and remains of early 14th Century nave wall paintings. However, Bishopsbourne’s most noted claim is that Rev Richard Hooker was Rector from 1595 until his death in 1600. Hooker played a significant part in the development of Anglicanism, championing a ‘middle way’ between Puritanism and Catholicism. Partly written at the Bishopsbourne Rectory, his eight-volume work, The Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity includes commentary on Cranmer’s Book of Common Prayer. After his death, he was buried in the chancel, and a memorial was provided by William Cowper.
In common with many English churches, the Victorian period brought new pews, a redesigned sanctuary, and a new organ. This one-manual and pedal instrument by J W Walker was installed at the west end of the church in 1865, before being moved to its present position in the north chancel transept in 1887. I t retains its original tracker action and ‘trigger’ Swell pedal, and with fine quality spotted metal front pipes has a specification of: 8ft open diapason (unenclosed); stopped diapason 8, dulciana 8, principal 4, flute 4, fifteenth 2, (enclosed) pedal bourdon 16 with manual to pedal coupler. The pedal- board of 25 notes is straight and flat.
Bishopsbourne, J W Walker Photo C Jilks
Barham, F H Browne console Photo C Jilks
It was demonstrated for us by St Mary’s organist, Julia Lister, who played Presto from Handel’s Organ Concerto Op.4 No.5 in F major. Using the diapason chorus of diapason, principal and fifteenth, Julia produced music of instant delight, bringing Handel’s skipping rhythms and cadences to life with bright early English tonalities blossoming in the building. As members tried the instrument for them- selves, the organ’s gentle dulciana and warm flutes revealed yet more tonal beauty from this petite English treasure. Set among Barham’s winding village lanes, with their country cottages and gardens neatly trimmed in readiness for spring, St John the Baptist is a mediaeval church that has evolved and changed over the centuries; including an effective heating system, which was not to be sneezed at on a cold February day. However, St John’s first organ, a Victorian instrument by J W Walker set in the north transept, was rebuilt and enlarged in 1916 by Brownes of Canterbury. In 2004, with further changes to the church, the organ was removed from the north transept for the installation of an office and choir vestry, which included a gallery, where the rebuilt organ was then installed. The instrument acquired an impressive specification utilising pipework on the extension principal, set on new soundboards with electric action.
Its pipes were drawn from many sources: some of the original Walker, the 1916 Browne, and a Trumpet and mixture from St Peter’s Church, Limpsfield, all played from a modern two-manual and pedal stop key console obtained from Holy Trinity Church, Crockenhill. The console is sited on the south side of the nave opposite the organ, and a functional, if utilitarian, organ case was added a few years later when further funds were available. The organ’s specification is now: Great Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2; Swell Organ, 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 11 16 8; Pedal Organ, 32 16 8 8 51/3 4 16 8, with usual couplers and electric balanced Swell.
St John’s organist, Jim Bryant, made us very welcome, and after a few words from their Vicar, Jim spoke on the instrument’s history and design. He demonstrated it for us with a well prepared recital of music chosen to reveal the organ’s abilities. He began with the first movement of the Bach/Vivaldi Concerto in A minor BW V 593, using clear diapasons and mutations brushed with baroque colour, the Swell organ reflecting the Great chorus with engaging echo effects. Then in complete contrast, he played four movements from Percy Whitlock’s Plymouth Suite: Lantana, Chanty, Salix fin- ishing with Allegro Risoluto. The music came over well played with a conscientious precision, the organ respectably managing this wide repertoire, although with its ‘mongrel’ tonal design it lacks any true character or lineage — the proverbial curate’s egg: good in parts.
A generous tea was provided by St John’s ladies and there was time for members to try the organ for themselves, many commenting on the comfortable console. However, to conclude our visit to St John’s, the organ was used in its true guise, to accompany a service: on this occasion a simple evensong and members were provided with words and music for the hymns, canticles and psalm. A small choir of four ladies and three gentlemen from St John’s sang the anthem, Lord for Thy tender mercy’s sake by Farrant. We are grateful to our member Matthew Young, who not only sang in the choir, but arranged the whole afternoon for us.
SET I N the heart of the Kentish Weald, the villages of Horsmonden and Brenchley are undoubtedly havens of picturesque tranquillity, although for our visit on the 16th March they were shrouded in winter’s cold iron-grey gloom.
Nevertheless, St Margaret’s Parish Church, Horsmonden, offered many attractions, especially its warm sand- stone chancel and church members, Liz Barr and Jane Gerrad-Pierce who together gave a short talk on the interesting history of this charming 14th century church, whilst gleefully demonstrating the rise and fall of the chain suspension holding an impressive oil-filled brass chandelier, which lights the centre of the nave.
Mark Bromley, St Margaret’s Organist and Director of Music, was equally welcoming with a detailed description of the 1837 William Hill organ. This was originally a one-manual instrument which was enlarged to a two-manual and pedal organ by Forster & Andrews in 1886. Gray & Davison undertook some work in 1961 and a complete overhaul, with action and a stop changes, were carried out by Martin Cross in 2009. Thankfully, the delicate tonal delight of this organ has been preserved, together with its tracker action and ‘ratchet’ Swell box mecha- nism. Swell Sub octave and Super octave couplers, which were later additions, have been removed, restoring key touch lightness. The one tonal change made in 2009 was to remove a late Victorian 8ft Gamba stop and replace it with a Tierce 13/5. This may seem out of place in an early Victorian organ, but, with careful voicing, blends well with the Great chorus adding an engaging baroque tonality complementing the warm English flutes and diapasons. The organ’s specification is now: Great Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 13/5; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 8; Pedal Organ, 16 with Swell to Great and Manual to Pedal (Gt to Ped) couplers. The manuals are CC-G 56 notes and pedals (straight and flat) CCC- E 29 notes, the Swell is Tenor C com- pass, with a bottom octave 8ft stopped bass. The original stencilled and painted front pipes form an attractive and decorous case.
In a stone cold church, Mark played with an engaging dexterity demonstrating the nuances of this interesting organ in an appealing short recital: Bach’s Vater unser im Himmelreich BW V 737; Arabesque by Jean Langlais; Tierce en taille by Du Mage; and Fugue in C BW V 545 by Bach. With warm applause and thanks from our President for a fine recital, there was just time for members to try the organ for themselves before moving on to Brenchley.
The muddy lanes between Horsmonden and Brenchley appeared dormant, still awaiting signs of spring, although a few rabbits with their white bobbing tails were seen gambolling among the trees. All Saints’ Church, Brenchley, dates from circa 1233 though with its broad open chancel, Victorian inscriptions and large transepts, feels more modern. Following a talk on the church history by Ann Rabbit, our attention turned to the All Saints’ organs. There is a small one-manual chamber organ, built by Osmond of Taunton in 1970, in the South transept with a specification of 8 4 2 - 8 4 22/3 derived by extension from just two ranks: a gemshorn 8ft and a stopped flute 8ft. The voicing is classical in style with a very ‘chiffy’ flute and a purring gemshorn that blossoms in the church acoustic. David Hughes, who had arranged the afternoon for us, played the Earl of Salisbury’s Pavane by William Byrd, a suitable piece to demonstrate the instrument for us.
Brenchley, 1913 Norman & Beard Photo C Jilks
However, the main organ is a 2-manual and pedal 1913 Norman & Beard, standing imposingly in the West gallery, and members were able to view the organ while a generous tea was served. This Norman & Beard instrument, with its exhaust pneu- matic actions, is typical of the period, although fifteenths have been added to both Great and Swell choruses, providing some welcome brightness amid the Edwardian warmth. I ts specification is now: Great Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 2; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 4 2 8; Pedal Organ, 16 16 8, with usual couplers. As this was the one hundredth anniversary of the organ’s installation, David Hughes had arranged for a special commemorative recital to be given by Alistair Curtis, our member from Wadhurst.
The recital was particularly enjoyed by Gary Tollerfield who was able to make the journey, braving the cold, from Paddock Wood to be with us. Most members have been aware that Gary’s health has not been as it might be and, consequently, we were especially pleased to see him. His beaming smile and firm handshake conveyed his intense interest and enjoyment of the afternoon. He has been a pillar of our Association and we owe him an incalculable debt of gratitude for his many years service as our Association Secretary and cover photog- rapher with his outstanding knowledge of organ cases.
Finally, on this special occasion, our President, Richard Knight, presented a one hundredth anniversary organ cake, with its dates and organ number ‘1308’ inscribed in blue icing, to All Saints’ Organist, Sheila Harris, to conclude a full and absorbing visit to the Weald of Kent.
Richard Knight presents the cake to Organist Sheila Harris Photo C Jilks
ON 13th April a good number of mem- bers and guests enjoyed a superb visit to three beautiful City churches with fine organs. The day had been arranged by our President Elect, Nicholas King, to whom we extend grateful thanks.
St Mary-le-Bow has an 11th century crypt, but the church was destroyed in the Great Fire of 1666, rebuilt by Sir Christopher W ren 1670-80, severely damaged in W W 2, and restored by Laurence King 1956-64
The 2-manual Kenneth Tickell organ (Gt, 16 8 8 8 4 4 2 111 1V 8 8 Tremulant; Sw, 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 13/5 11/3 111-1V 16 8 8 Tremulant Bow Bells; Ped, 16 16 8 8 4 16 8) replaces the Rushworth & Dreaper instrument of 1962. I t stands on a gallery over the West door in the handsome 1962 case, has tracker action with electric stop controls, and is tuned to a modified Vallotti system. The opening recital was given by Thomas Trotter on 29th September 2010.
St Mary-le-Bow, Kenneth Tickell Photo A Curtis
Walbrook, George England 1765 Photo A Curtis
Matthew Power, the Parish Secretary, organist of St Andrew’s, Highgate, and a member of the music staff at St Mary-le- Bow, gave an admirable stop-by-stop demonstration of the organ using a radio microphone. The Great has bright full toned flutes, a gamba voiced like an open diapason 11, a pungent cornet, French style cromorne, and a powerful trumpet, the whole adding up to a full chorus very suitable for Buxtehude and Bach as well as later music. The Swell, on the other hand, shows French influence, with a colourful range of mutations, rich sounding strings, boldly voiced reeds, and a most effective swell box. Matthew concluded his demonstration by playing J S Bach Fugue on the Magnificat BW V 723. There was a steady stream of those wishing to play, many commenting on the light tracker action, and although there was a feeling that full organ could be overwhelming for any length of time, this very versatile organ sounds magnificent in this resonant church with a 2-3 second echo.
Our first visit of the afternoon was to St Stephen, Walbrook, another Wren church notable for its beautiful dome, a forerunner of that at St Paul’s, and the earliest domed church in Britain. At the instigation of Lord Palumbo there was a controversial transformation of the spa- cious interior 1978-87, when the pews were removed, much necessary structural remedial work carried out, and a central altar carved by Henry Moore was installed.
We were welcomed by the Organist, Joseph Sentance , who spoke about the organ and church, and reminded us that the Samaritans were founded here in 1953 by the Rector, Chad Varah. The original phone Mansion House 9000 is on display.
The 3 manual organ (Gt, 16 8 8 4 4 2 111 8 4; Sw, 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 111 16 8 8 4 Tremulant; Ch, 8 8 4 4 2 111 8 4; Ped, 32 16 16 16 8 8 16 8 4) is at the west end and is housed in a superb George England case of 1765, although at some time it has been brought forward on the gallery and pedal pipes installed on both sides. Over the years Gray, Hill, Walker, and Hill, Norman & Beard have worked on the organ. The console has been moved from the gallery to the NE corner of the church, and moved again in 1970 to the west end. The last rebuild was by HNB in 1987.
Like St Mary-le-Bow, the organ speaks clearly into a resonant building, and as one might expect has a warm English sound suited to the more Romantic repertory. To demonstrate the organ’s character Mr Sentance played AD1620 from Sea Pictures by Edward MacDowell, which rose to a splendid climax, and the Norman Cocker Tuba Tune, showing that this piece can be effective using the Tromba in the absence of a tuba. Again, many members were keen to play this lovely instrument.
Our final visit of the day was to St Michael, Cornhill, where we were warmly welcomed by Jonathan Rennert, who has been Director of Music since 1979. The church stands above the remains of a great Roman basilica dating from the 1st century AD, and was rebuilt after the Great Fire in 1669. I t became the most Victorian of the City Churches when it was remodelled by Sir George Gilbert Scott 1857-60.
The organ is the largest of those visited (Gt, 16 8 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 13/5 111 8 8; Sw, 16 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 1V 16 8 8 4; Ch, 8 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 11 8 Tremulant 8 8; Ped, 32 16 16 16 16 8 8 8 16 16 8 ) and contains 6 ranks of pipes by Renatus Harris dating from 1684 or 1704. Over the years major organ builders of the day have worked on the organ, including Green and Hill, and it was moved by Joseph Robson to its present position in the NE corner of the church in 1859. Major work was carried out by Rushworth & Dreaper in 1925, 1960, and 1995, and a most successful rebuild by Nicholson in 2011 has returned it largely to the 1925 specification, with solid state action.
Records show that a choir existed in 1375, and a proud tradition of choral music still continues. Over the years many distinguished organists have served the church, including William Boyce (1736-1768), Richard Limpus (1849-1875), founder of the Royal College of Organists, and Harold Darke (1916-1966) who gave 1833 Monday lunchtime recitals.
Very appropriately, Jonathan Rennert demonstrated the organ by playing William Boyce Voluntary in D, Harold Darke A Meditation on Brother James’ Air, and finally Tuba Tune by Reginald Porter Brown. The organ has all the right colours for this music, from the early Boyce to those specified in the Meditation, surely written with this organ in mind, and the rumbustious Tuba Tune. Members were able to enjoy playing this fine organ made so familiar through many broadcasts, recitals and recordings, and now restored to full health. After a wonderful day we departed in high spirits, not dampened by the rain which had set in.
St Michael’s Cornhill Photo A Curtis
COMPLETED in the year 1237, the Great West Front of Peterborough Cathedral, with its three majestically curving arches, dominates the Cathedral close, dwarfing its surround of small irregular stone houses. Entering the Cathedral through the west door, the vista of Norman nave arches, with their flowing curves, extends gracefully to the Cathedral’s central quire; then on, undaunted, to the far distant east-end sanctuary where the hallowed stone- canopied high altar sits in a soft shimmering light filtering through leaded windows, bestowing an ethereal luminescence on its ancient stones.
The Quire Peterborough Photo C Jilks
The Cathedral was completed to the west end of the nave, including its central tower, in 1193, and the wooden decorated nave ceiling added between 1230 and 1250. This is unique in Britain and is one of only four such ceilings in the whole of Europe: the wooden painted nave ceiling at Ely Cathedral is entirely Victorian.
Arriving on the morning of 18th May our coach party included the choir of St Bartholomew’s Church, Otford, Kent, who, augmented by a few KCOA members, had come to sing evensong under their Director of Music, Kevin Grafton, our KCOA Treasurer, with Nicholas King, our new President, playing the organ. But first, we made our way to the quire to be greeted by Andrew Reid, who was Peterborough’s Director of Music until September 2012, and is now Director of the Royal School of Church Music. After some back ground history of the William Hill organ and the Cathedral, Andrew demonstrated the organ for us with a captivating performance of Franz Liszt’s Prelude and Fugue on BACH, utilizing the full colours and dynamics of the organ. The piece opened with majestic tonal richness, the full Swell, with its spectacular 16-8-4 high pressure reeds, growling like a caged tiger, then singing diapasons and gentle flutes, with a dash of tremulant. Following the Liszt, Andrew freely improvised, exploring every facet of this exceptional four-manual and pedal Hill organ demonstrating each department, including the effectiveness of the Swell, Solo and Choir boxes. Strangely, at the console, the Swell box is the middle pedal, positioned between the Solo and Choir.
The organ was originally built on a choir screen by Hill in 1868, but with the removal of the screen in 1894, it was moved to the north triforium. In 1930 Hill, Norman & Beard rebuilt the organ extending it into three triforium bays. Harrison & Harrison fully restored the organ in 1982, installing a new transmission and returning it nearer to its 1894 tonal design. A disastrous fire in 2001 in the north transept caused extensive damage to the east facing choir organ and the complete organ was subsequently dismantled, restored and rebuilt, but not completed until 2005; the opening recital was by Olivier Latry in September 2005.
President, Nicholas King, at the Peterborough organ Photo C Jilks
Understandably, many members wanted to try the organ for themselves, but as time was limited before the evensong rehearsal, each had only four and a half minutes; all frustratingly short. However, the four-manual and pedal console is beautifully laid out and comfortable, positioned on the south side of the quire some twelve feet from the ground, opposite the organ. Its flutes and strings are undeniably ‘Hill’, as were diapasons and softer reeds. The high pressure Swell reeds had a ‘Harrison’ brightness as did some of the mixtures, but the whole instrument is a delight, perfectly suited to the building. I t has a specification of: Great organ 19, Swell organ 18, Solo organ 13, Choir organ 12, and Pedal organ 15, plus a further six stops extended from the manual stops. The organ’s pitch is a quarter tone sharp to A 440.
There was just time for some lunch before the choir’s evensong rehearsal, which allowed other members to visit and try the organ at the Parish Church of St John the Baptist, just outside the cathedral close. We were welcomed by Stephen Barber, Organist and Director of Music. The organ is by Forster & Andrews built in 1871, but subsequently rebuilt with additions in 1917 by Harrison & Harrison; it has since been overhauled in 1980 by Cousans. This three-manual and pedal organ is positioned, rather unsympathetically, behind the choir screen on the north side of the chancel and earlier reports had been less than flattering. Nevertheless, on trying the organ we found much to enjoy, the 1871 Forster & Andrews mid-Victorian voicing full of character, eschewing the company’s later tonal corpulence.
However, the rather robust Great large open diapason and other 1917 additions were tonally typical of their Edwardian period; also the organ’s actions are in need of restoration. Yet, these criticisms aside, with sympathetic restoration, new actions and a tonal design completed to include a Great mixture and Pedal reed, it would be a worthy addition to Peterborough’s collection of organs. Its specification is: Great organ 10, Swell organ 10, Choir organ 7, and Pedal organ 5, with usual couplers. Stephen Barber explained that, alas, the future of the organ is uncertain, as St John’s has difficulty raising funds and interest, which is inevitably drawn to the glamour of Peterborough’s magnificent Cathedral. Nevertheless, before returning for evensong, many members were able to try the organ, enjoying its many delights.
Returning to the Cathedral, Nicholas King was sympathetically improvising in preparation for evensong. The introit was a beguiling Listen, Sweet Dove by Ives, then the opening responses by Bertalot, which were clean and crisp, bringing the cathedral acoustic to life. Psalm 48 was sung to a chant by Beechey and the canticles were Brewer in D. The anthem Come, Holy Ghost by Thiman, with its flowing melodies and harmonies, built stirringly to a fulsome final amen, its pellucid resonance ringing among the Cathedral’s ancient vaulting. The organ voluntary was a resounding Festival Toccata by Malcolm Archer. The service was enjoyably sung and the organ accompaniments, by Nicholas King, beautifully played and sympathetically balanced against the choir, bringing to a close a rewarding and enjoyable day at Peterborough Cathedral. We particularly thank our retiring President, Richard Knight, and Kevin Grafton, together with his Otford choir, for making it all possible.
William Hill Organ, Peterborough Cathedral Photo C Jilks
VISITI NG North Kent on 8th June, history unfolded in unexpected ways in the village of Upchurch, near Sittingbourne, just north of Watling Street, the old London to Dover Roman road. The Parish Church of St Mary the Virgin revealed a little known link with the Spanish Armada, as the Vicar of St Mary’s from 1560 to 1567 was Rev Edmund Drake, the father of Sir Francis Drake. Situated only a short distance from the River Medway, once home to the Royal Navy, maritime history has invariably touched this fascinating church, with its distinctive ‘candle snuffer’ octagonal pyramid steeple.
We were welcomed by Rev Canon Alan Amos, Vicar of Upchurch. He introduced us to their Director of Music, Helen Osborne and Sue Rossiter their organist of twenty-five years. Helen spoke of the history of this 12th century church, founded in 1187, revealing some of its 14th century plaster work, preserved on the south nave wall, together with medieval wall paintings and tiles in the raised chancel. There is still some medieval glass in the church and a fine ring of six bells in the tower, cast in 1640.
St Mary’s two-manual and pedal organ, set on the north side of the chancel, was installed in 1905. I t was built by Morton & Ellis of Sevenoaks and has tracker key action and electric pedal action (original- ly pneumatic). I ts voicing suggests an 1885-90 vintage although its case appears a lit tle later, but without knowledge of its previous home and history this is an esti- mate. I t was overhauled in 1980 by Wood Brown and more recently by the company of Henry Willis. I ts specification is: Great Organ, 8 8 4 2; Swell Organ, 8 8 4 11; and Pedal Organ, 16 8, with usual couplers. Some tonal changes have been made in more recent years with the removal of a Great dulciana, and addition of a 4ft principal, 2ft fifteenth and a two-rank mixture to the Swell; it has a radiating concave pedalboard.
Organist, Sue Rossiter, demonstrated the organ for us with Vesper Voluntaries Op. 14 by Edward Elgar. The organ has a pleasing timbre with its warm singing diapasons, gentle lieblich flutes and a satisfyingly woody stopped diapason. The Pedal bourdon provides firm support, although speaks with discretion allowing the organ to deliver a cordial English tonality throughout the church. There was time for members to try the organ, finding a light sensitive key action and comfortable pedalboard. We are most grateful to Sue Rossiter for demonstrating the organ and Helen Osborne for speaking so engagingly about St Mary’s Church and its history.
Newington Parish Church, also dedicated to St Mary, is less than half a mile from Watling Street and closer to Sittingbourne. I t was built between 1163 and 1177 by Richard de Lucy, with additions being made in the 13th and 14th century. The church has been subject to many changes of ownership; Lesnes Abbey at Erith laid claim and, in a lawsuit in 1281, judgement was indeed given in favour of Lesnes Abbey. With the sup- pression of the Abbey by Cardinal Wolsey in 1525 the church passed to the Cardinal’s new college at Oxford, then to the Crown at Wolsey’s fall and finally, during the reign of Elizabeth, to the Provost and Fellows of Eton College. Newington like Upchurch is now within the Diocese of Canterbury under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Canterbury.
Arthur Wallis at Newington Photo C Jilks
There is still much of antiquity and interest in the church with a wall paint- ing in the north aisle of The Last Judgement c1340, also traces of a large painting of the Nativity at the west end of this wall.
As we arrived, strains of Mozart and Bach could be heard, not from the organ, but played by a wind quartet comprising a flute, two clarinets and a bass clarinet. Grouped in a semicircle just in front of the chancel, attired in Dinner jackets and bow ties, they played delightfully for us. The Klaritet – Clarinet Quartet had been rehearsing for an evening concert and Rev Alan Amos asked if they ‘would play us in’. Play us in they did, their music beautifully phrased and balanced, before Rev Amos spoke a lit tle of the church and its finer points of interest. However, turning his attention to the organ he quite surprised us by climbing on to the stool and demonstrated with a few bars of Flor Peeters, bringing the organ vividly to life. This two-manual and pedal instru- ment was originally built by Henry Jones in 1864 and enlarged in 1906; George Osmond of Taunton installed a modern detached drawstop console in 1961, set at the front of the nave, just in front of the pews. The organ is positioned behind an obscuring arch south of the chancel, its ample case almost completely hidden from view. I ts specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2; Swell Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 111 13/5 8; Pedal Organ, 32 16 16 8 4, with usual couples, which include Swell Sub and Super Octave couplers. Alas, much of its generous sound is lost, struggling to get out into the church; however, it has fine mid Victorian diapasons and flutes with some more recently voiced reeds. I ts specification uses a lit tle extension work, with the Great open diapason 8ft extended to form the principal 4ft, but with an independent twelfth and fifteenth.
This is an engaging instrument with gentle character and colour, the availability of octave couplers providing full Swell effects, adding to the warm Great organ sonority. Members were able to try the organ for themselves while a lavishly tasty tea was served at the back of the church. This had been an absorbing visit to this now quiet backwater of Kent, for as well as its organs, it had revealed a glimpse of a fascinating history. Thinking back to the time of Rev Edmund Drake at Upchurch in 1560, this was towards the end of the Sp÷rer Minimum, 1480-1560, when, with the sun’s low activity and very few sunspots, temperatures were considerably lower than today. In the period of 1645-1715, the Maunder Minimum and the “little ice age” caused the river Thames to freeze completely each year, allowing fairs and buildings on the ice, with the inevitable hardship for farmers and country people huddled in their cottages. Upchurch and Newington would have been typical, and our visit revealed just a lit tle of this ebb and flow of histo- ry recorded in these historic churches. A thought-provoking afternoon for which we must thank Rev Alan Amos, for most graciously inviting us, and Ian Payne for arranging it.
THE VENUES for our meeting on 6th July, which included our Annual General Meeting, could not have been better chosen; two attractive village churches full of history and interest only a few miles from the County Town of Maidstone. We were guests of our member David Shuker whose wife, being the incumbent, allowed us full access to the churches, organs and parish hall for tea.