Kent County Organists’ Association
August 2014 Journal
The articles on this page are in the order published in the paper edition of the Journal
To go to a specific article click on the alphabetical list of contents below
A day in London's Mayfair
Notes from the Netherlands
Review of recent meetings
Birling All Saints Church and Organ Workshop
Brook and Wye
Chatham Eon Baptist Church
Dover St. Mary's Parish Church, AGM and St. Andrew's Buckland
Godalming and Guildford
Hythe St Michael’s Methodist and St Peter & Paul Saltwood
Rainham St.Thomas of Canterbury
Two Market Towns
WE HAVE had several interesting meetings during the first half of the year. Of these, the visits to Mayfair and Grosvenor in Central London, and to Godalming and Guildford, seem to have been especially successful; but all have had their highlights. We were particularly glad to welcome Elizabeth Wicks to our May meeting at Brook and Wye, and I know that she was very appreciative of this.
I t was especially good to hear at the AGM that 60 members have taken part in meetings during the past year, an increase of almost 40% on the previous year. We hope that casting our net more widely across the county has been a factor in this upsurge, and that this will encourage more people to join, or re-join, our Association.
The inimitable reports of our resident wordsmith Colin Jilks on these meetings can be read later in this Journal.
Please continue to let me know if there are visits which you would recommend, so that we can set them up
We have further attractive plans for 2014/5, starting with the President’s Buffet Supper at t he Pilgrim’s Hotel, Canterbury on 20th September. If you have not already booked for this, an essentially informal occasion for members and their guests, please do so as soon as possible. We continue to explore the possibility of registering the Association for charitable status, which will enable us to recover Gift-aid on subscriptions and donations. Sadly, we have found that we fall below the threshold of minimum annual turnover for Charity Commission status, but we are looking into alternatives.
Work also continues on reviewing our Constitution – basically a sound document, but there are some loopholes to be closed as regards effective responsibility for governance of the Association, without imposing undue rigour.
At the AGM, David Shuker was confirmed as President Elect, to hold office from next July for two years. I am sure we all wish him well as my successor. Janet Hughes was elected to the Committee, replacing Peter Hart, whom we thank for his input during the past three years. A profile of David appears in this issue of the Journal, and Janet is lined up for the next issue. We must also thank Richard Knight, who has now stepped down from your Committee following his period of inspirational leadership and involvement. We do still have two casual vacancies on Committee, and I should be glad to hear from anyone who feels able to help in the management of the Association.
We have been saddened by two translations to the heavenly host in recent months. Donald Preece, widely respected for his knowledge of historical instruments, passed away in January, and David Leeke in May. David was my successor at Folkestone Parish Church, going on to subsequent work in Hastings and the Maidstone area before moving back to his roots in Shrewsbury. Our thoughts and prayers will be with their families.
CHATHAM, with its Royal dockyard, established by Queen Elizabeth 1 in 1568, needs no introduction, although, just a few miles to the east, the town of Rainham has yet to make its mark on history. Originally a small rural settlement on the ancient Roman road between London and Canterbury, Rainham’s population remained at a mere 400 souls at the beginning of the 19th century, although the arrival of the railway in 1858 produced a significant burgeoning of inhabitants. The electrification of the Chatham Main Line in 1959 generated many more, resulting in an unparalleled urbanisation and a present-day population of over 6,000.
The ancient Parish Church of St Margaret served the town well, but with many new residents owing their allegiance to Rome rather than Canterbury, St Thomas of Canterbury RC Church was built and opened in April 1958. Standing impressively on the south side of Watling Street, about a half a mile west of the parish church, it is constructed mainly of brick and was designed by the architect Eduardo Dodds, who also built the Roman Catholic Church in Strood a few years later. Michael Clark’s stone carving, a representation of Christ bursting from the tomb, dominates the sanctuary and there are several ceramics, designed by Adam Kossowski, in the Lady Chapel and other parts of the church.
The church has a generous west gallery which accommodates a two-manual and pedal organ and seating for the choir. The organ, built by J W Walker & Sons in 1959, is a 5-rank extension design instrument, utilising electric action and with all its pipes, except the Great open diapason and the lowest 16ft bourdons, enclosed in a Swell box. Its tonal scheme is unusual in that it has an 8ft krumhorn rather than a more usual trumpet as its reed rank, and also a separate 8ft vox angelica which, when used with the 8ft dulcet, produces very effective strings. The other ranks are open diapason, stopped flute and a two-octave repeating mixture. With the exception of the vox angelica, all ranks are extended to 16-8-4 pitches resulting in an impressive specification of: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2111 8; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 13/5 111 16 8 4 and tremulant; Pedal Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 8, with usual couplers.
The first Choirmaster of St Thomas’ was Nicholas Danby, and one of the first priests, Rev Fr Norman Swinton, who had previously been a member of the BBC Singers, resulting in the early establishment of a fully robed choir of some standing. The main Sung Mass at St Thomas’ was celebrated on Sunday evenings at the time, accommodating Nicholas Danby who played for the High Mass at the Carmelite Church in Kensington on Sunday mornings.
The present organist is our KCOA member John Wilkins who welcomed us to the church with a little of its history before demonstrating the organ for us. He opened with Ave Maria (d’Arcadelt) by Franz Liszt, using flutes, strings and tremulant, its colours and cadences reflecting the charming 16th century Chanson on which it is based; then Hymne by Naji Hakim, who was a pupil of Jean Langlais, the piece sounding rather atonal in structure, but with interesting use of the 8ft krumhorn in the tenor register. John concluded with Grand Choeur by Theodoré Salomé, involving every facet of the organ, skilfully controlling the full organ ensemble to marked effect, until the 3-rank mixture was finally added, its abrasive tuning bestowing a touch of tonal vulgarity reminiscent of a care-worn fairground organ, battling the elements. Undoubtedly, the organ’s tonal design has been well executed, making full use of its relatively small number of ranks, but sadly compromised by poor tuning. However, we particularly enjoyed John’s adept and musical playing, getting the very best from the organ. Our President, having first thanked John for his stimulating demonstration, invited members to the gallery to try the organ for themselves, many taking interest in its construction and tonal colours.
Chatham has some notable attractions, one possibly being the Enon Baptist Church, which has a ‘Hoxne’ organ by Noel Mander. The organist of the church is Chris Clemence, KCOA member and husband of Rosemary, our Secretary. Chris gave us some thought provoking background to the church and its present building, a distinctive, if idiosyncratic, ‘A’ frame timber design by Colts of Bethersden, which opened in 1971. The Enon church was originally founded in 1843, following a split from the Zion Baptist Church in Clover Street, and has occupied several buildings in Chatham over the years. Its ‘Hoxne’ organ was built in the late 1950s and is a 2-manual instrument with electric action and a detached console, but without pedals. It is an extension organ based on just three ranks: open diapason, stopped diapason (in wood) and a tierce, providing 6 stops on its upper manual and 9 on the lower. In keeping with the Manders of the period, its keys have black naturals and white sharps and its front pipes, the bass of the diapason, are made in copper.
Noel Mander, Enon Baptist Photo C. Jilks
Christopher demonstrated the organ for us with two hymn tune arrangements: Winchester Old, arranged by Alec Rowley and Lubeck, arranged with variations, by J E Newell. The organ produced some remarkable tonal colour and character, the diapasons and flutes having an appealing start transient ‘chiff’, particularly enhancing the derived smaller mutations.
Tea was served in the adjoining hall and a number of members tried the organ for themselves, and the afternoon concluded with an entertaining computer slide show of pictures taken by Chris at our different meetings over the past three years, particularly enjoyable in that members could name practically every organ and location. Our President, Nicholas King, generously thanked Chris and Rosemary for allowing us to visit this interesting church and organ, demonstrating what can be done with a minimal specification.
All Saints’ Church & Organ Workshop
THE VILLAGE of Birling sits unobtrusively at the foot of the North Downs a few miles north west of Maidstone, with its historic Parish Church of All Saints’ set high on a sandy mound cut into the Downs, looking down benevolently on an unassuming village. Birling is mentioned in the Domesday Book recording a church and a mill, which rendered 10 shillings per year; the present church dates from the 13th century, although there has been a church on the site since Saxon times. With an intriguing history and an 1866 Peter Conacher organ to enjoy, this was to prove an interesting venue.
However, it was not where we were intended to be, with our meeting arranged for St Peter’s Church, Ditton, and a talk by member Donald Preece on “Organs of the East End of London”. Fate had sadly taken a most unfortunate turn with the unhappy and unexpected death of Prof. Preece on 5th January. Nevertheless, David Shuker, who was hosting the first part the meeting at his organ workshop near Birling, hastily arranged for our visit to Birling church, together with an illustrated talk exploring a little-known mid-Victorian organ and its builder.
Disappointingly, the railway line from London was closed because of wind blown fallen trees, leaving our President frustratingly trapped at Victoria Station, although, battling through a storm tossed countryside, over twenty members made it safely to David Shuker’s organ workshop, housed in a restored farm building about a mile from Birling. These intrepid members had negotiated flooded lanes and remote farm tracks to find a workshop full of intriguing organ paraphernalia, including an 18th century organ, which was being restored.
David Shuker and Peter Hart at the workshop Photo C Jilks
Rescued from Aylesford Methodist Church, following its closure, the organ’s history is unknown, although it is believed that its Great main soundboard dates from the 1770s, having a keyboard compass of low G to top F, extending half an octave lower than modern organs. However, this two-manual instrument has a rather mixed pedigree; many of its pipes are Victorian and the Swell organ is a complete Victorian addition. Nevertheless, assisted by the organ enthusiast, Martin Renshaw, David is in the process of fully restoring it and, with Martin’s help, plans to install the organ at Villebarou/Blois in France when it is finished.
The Great soundboard has an unusual double slide mechanism which allows quick and effortless dynamic changes, getting the best from the instrument. Many pipes have needed to be re-voiced and a new 111 rank cornet mixture has been added, tonally in keeping with the 18th century period, although, set at the front of the organ, the bright new pipes appear a little incongruous without the organ’s case and front pipes, yet to be installed. Martin outlined some of the work being undertaken, and spoke enthusiastically of pre-restoration organs, music and singing. While by no means completed, as it was without its pedalboard, and its final voicing is to be undertaken when it is installed in France, members were able to try the organ, gaining a flavour of its distinctive colours and timbres. I t has 6 Great stops, 4 Swell Stops, and a 16ft Pedal rank. Our Deputy President, Colin Jilks, expressed our thanks to David and Martin for allowing us access to their workshop and this unusual organ, confessing that in his many years in organ building he had not seen a double slide soundboard of such intriguing design.
Defying further heavy rain, we gathered at All Saints’ Church to be met by David’s wife, Linda, who is Rector of the parish. Church Warden, Margaret Ivell, gave a short talk on the history of the church, which had been administered by the Nevill family for many years, showing us the family vault, its sinister deeply embossed metal doors set in the floor of the chancel. Fascinatingly, Michael Nevill, the present organist, is a descendant of this ancient family, which dates back via Rev. Wm. Nevill, 4th Earl of Abergavenny born in 1792, to his ancestors, holders of the land since 1435. The church has also mysteriously changed its allegiance from the diocese of Canterbury to Rochester several times over the years, only returning to Rochester in 1905.
Peter Conacher organ, Birling Photo C Jilks
Its organ, set at the back of the church, is by Peter Conacher of Huddersfield, installed in 1866. Conacher served as an apprentice in Leipzig before working with William Hill and then founding his own company in 1854. With its painted and stencilled front pipes, it is typical of the period; a two-manual and pedal instrument with mechanical action throughout. I t has warm clear diapasons, lightly voiced flutes and a Great chorus topped by a 2ft flageolet rather than a fifteenth; the Swell 8ft horn, with its small scale short resonators, adds an engagingly crisp brassy timbre. Its tonal character is remarkable as the organ has remained untouched for many years, with the inevitable accumulation of dust and dirt in the pipes. Our Deputy President, Colin Jilks, has tuned this organ for over forty years, carefully tending it to keep it working, and considers that, were it fully cleaned and restored, it would be a remarkable organ indeed. Its specification is: Great organ, 8 8 8 4 4 2; Swell organ, 8 8 4 2 8; Pedal organ, 16 8, with usual couplers. Michael Nevill kindly played for us before members were free to enjoy this persuasive instrument.
The final part of the meeting, arranged for us by David Shuker, was in the near-by All Saints’ church hall, where a cup of tea and a piece of cake were provided. With the short notice involved we were most grateful to David who gave a care- fully prepared talk, engagingly delivered in his benign scholarly manner, and copiously illustrated with computer slides. David’s methodical approach reflects his thirty years as a research chemist before opening his first organ workshop in 2007 at Rothley, Leicestershire, moving to Birling in 2011 when his wife was appointed Rector at Birling. His detailed talk concerned an organ he had disman- tled under the impression it was built by Renn. Further exploration and the discov- ery of a name plate revealed the organ was, in fact, by John Wheildon 1808-1859. Wheildon had been an apprentice assis- tant to Renn who was himself formerly with Flight & Robson at St Pancras. David now has this interesting mid-Victorian organ in store at his workshop and is hoping to restore it and find a suitable home.
We must particularly thank David, and his wife Linda, for a most thought-pro- voking and enjoyable afternoon, allowing us access to his “Sign of the Pipe” work- shop and for the visit to Birling church, which for many members had been a new experience.
St Michael’s Methodist St Peter & Paul Saltwood
MEMBERS had previously sampled the delights of the Cinque Port town of Hythe, with its history stretch- ing back to William the Conqueror, when we were guests, in 2009, of St Leonard’s Parish Church, delighting in the grandeur and eloquence of its renowned 1936 Harrison & Harrison organ, played for us by their Director of Music, Dr Berkeley Hill.
Spurden-Rutt, St, Michael's Anglican Centre, Hythe Photo C Jilks
Our visit on 22 March offered two, perhaps slightly less, imposing organs and churches: St Michael’s Methodist Anglican Church Centre and St Peter & St Paul, Saltwood, a small village now subsumed into the suburbs of Hythe. The two organs were very different: one keeping its original Edwardian case, but with radical tonal changes, and the other, retaining its original tonality, but aug- mented with a new grandiose case, which contained a bearded 16ft violon double diapason.
First we gathered at St Michael’s Methodist Church Centre, a late Victorian town centre Methodist church which has generously accommodated the congregation of St Michael’s Anglican Church, following its closure some two years ago. The organ, with tonal revisions, is a two-manual and pedal Spurden- Rutt instrument of 1908, set high in a gallery above the raised east-end non- conformist pulpit; together with its simple pipe-rack case, it holds a commanding position in the building. I t has retained its manual tracker actions although, in 1970, its warm Edwardian diapasons and fifteenths were removed by Martin Renshaw and replaced with conical diapasons and recorders; the 4ft principal seems to have been re-voiced to blend with the new 2ft recorder and con- ical nineteenth. The Swell seems more original, although the voicing has been modified, and the Pedal section enlarged with extensions. I ts specification is now: Great organ, 8 8 8 4 2 11/3; Swell organ, 8 8 8 8 4 2 111 8 8; Pedal organ, 16 16 8 8 4 11, with usual couplers, manual tracker action and electric pedal action.
Canon John Wright, our member from Hythe, persuasively introduced the instrument and demonstrated with four short pieces: the first by a Tudor composer, William Brown, and then a piece from Venice by Giovanni Pescetti (1704- 1766). John concluded with two short compositions of his own.
His music was well chosen for the instrument, the early composers coming over well using the flutes, recorder and mutations; then the first of his own compositions, engagingly utilising the Swell strings and diapasons, revealing a little of Spurden Rutt’s original voicing. John’s second piece, Festival Prelude, required a full organ tone, betraying the instrument’s pronounced lack of tonal substance, its once rich Edwardian voicing replaced with ‘fluffy’ conical diapasons and indecisive reeds, lacking in colour or consequence. The instrument’s general tuning was not aided by its unreliable wind sup- ply and was in desperate need of its spring tuning visit.
Nevertheless, Canon Wright had unquestionably produced some very enjoyable music for us, making the most of the instrument, at which point, it may have been prudent to have concluded our visit and moved on.
However, members are accustomed to trying organs for themselves and there are a few who, when in an adolescent mood, pull out all the stops to play at full throttle. Driven disrespectfully hard, it was not long before the organ started to gasp and wheeze, like a poor mistreated animal fatally wounded in the bullring, its flanks quivering as the matador’s blade found its mark. Yet, treated with consideration, the organ soon recovered its equilibrium and the more discerning were able to explore its equally interesting, if understated, features.
Hythe’s picturesque narrow streets, climbing up to the village of Saltwood, took us to its Parish Church of St Peter & St Paul. As we were to discover, in an illustrated talk by local historian Brian Doorne, with many slide pictures of the village taken during the late 1900s, Saltwood has changed markedly over the intervening years. Like Shaw’s Mr Doolittle, it has unwittingly been ‘delivered into the hands of middle-class morality’: well, perhaps not morality per se, but certainly their aspirations, which have tidied, trimmed and painted the village into a suburban neatness. Its age-old village green well, once the main water supply for the village, dismantled and covered with a few concrete slabs; the once attractive duck pond filled in and turned into an unsightly car park; and the village school now closed and, disregarding much opposition, demolished to make way for up-market housing. Brian Doorne’s thought-provoking talk, unearthing the lost bygone charm of Saltwood, also included a picture of the Parish Church interior taken in 1907, showing the chancel and the original J W Walker & Sons organ. Its case and front pipes can be seen to have been contained within a low north chancel arch; the organ’s present impressive case was added in front of the arch by S F Dalladay of Hastings during the mid-1920s.
Saltwood Parish Church Photo C Jilks
We were graciously welcomed to the church by Lay Reader, and accomplished organist, William Fittal, who was standing in for their organist who was abroad. William spoke briefly about the organ, explaining that although a Dalladay name plate is attached to the console, it is originally a J W Walker & Sons organ. Tonally it is late Victorian, typical of J W Walker of the period, with warm rich diapasons, clear full flutes and reeds of character. William’s only complaint was that it lacked a mixture stop, the Great and Swell choruses extending only to a fifteenth. The instrument certainly has a full tonal warmth, and perhaps its original design has been slightly unbalanced by the addition of a Great 8ft diapason No.1 and the 16ft double diapason in the new case, playable on the Great and Pedal. These additions aside, the organ is well balanced as a Victorian instrument, if not entirely to modern ears, and its specification is: Great organ, 16 8 8 8 4 2 8; Swell organ, 8 8 8 4 2 8 8; Choir organ, 8 8 8 4 8; Pedal organ, 16 16 8, with usual couplers and tracker action; it is suspected that the Great 16ft diapason has pneumatic action, fed from the Great soundboard as it is playable on the Pedal. William Fittal played five pieces for us, opening with Prelude and Fugue in G minor by Buxtehude, then the second movement of Mendelssohn’s Organ Sonata No.2. Next, William played Festive March by Daniel McIntyre, an Edwardian novelty piece he had found many years ago while still at school, playing it as a voluntary in the school chapel, producing some raised eyebrows. Bach’s A Minor Adagio was beautifully soloed on the Swell using clear sweet choir flutes and a slightly over excited tremulant before his last piece, Processional by William Mathias, engaging us with singing Great chorus phrases. There was well deserved applause from members for William’s splendid demonstration, showing the full capabilities of the organ.
J W Walker organ, Saltwood Photo C Jilks
A generous tea was available and time for members to play and take photographs before the illustrated talk by historian, Brian Doorne, with his fascinating computer slides dating from 1895 to the present day, which concluded a most enjoyable and stimulating visit to Hythe.
OUTSIDE the Cities of London and Westminster, prior to 1700, there remained lush green fields, farms and hamlets. With the turn of the century, developments of houses began spreading over this open virgin countryside and, in the period between 1720 and 1740, a comprehensive network of streets was laid out by the Grosvenor family, between Regent Street and Park Lane: today’s Mayfair.
A place of worship imbued a fashionable tone to a residential area, prompting the building of several churches. The most impressive was St George’s, Hanover Square, which opened in 1724, its Palladian fronted splendour and Georgian interior designed by the architect John James, an assistant to Sir Christopher Wren; George Frideric Handel attended this church until his death in 1759. Grosvenor Chapel was built and opened in 1730, a smaller simpler Georgian design. Both churches were generously provided with organs: St George’s, Hanover Square, by Gerard Smith in 1725, nephew of Bernard Smith and the Grosvenor chapel with an organ built by Abraham Jordan in 1732.
The third Mayfair church we visited on 26 April was The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, a Jesuit Roman Catholic church built in 1849, its present organ, by Bishop and Son, dates from 1914.
We gathered mid-morning at the eminently fashionable St George’s, Hanover Square, where we were welcomed by Simon Williams, who has been Organist and Director of Music since 2000, and is an accomplished musician who performs widely both as a recitalist and conductor. He played a significant role in the project to commission a new organ, resulting in a completely new instrument built by Richards, Fowkes & Co of Ooltewah, Tennessee, USA. Installed in 2012, the organ is contained within the original 1725 Gerard Smith west gallery case, although this was greatly enlarged and redesigned by Arthur Blomfield in 1894 to accommodate an organ by Robert Hope Jones, the original three central pipe towers being extended by the addition of an extra flat and tower on each side.
However, the case has a satisfying cohesion, being beautifully restored for the new three-manual and pedal organ of 46 speaking stops, sensitively laid out with- in, using mechanical key and pedal actions with electric drawstops. Tonally it reflects the 18th century style of North Germany and Holland, although it incorporates English romantic strings and flutes allowing for a wide repertoire.
After persuasively introducing the organ, Simon Williams played four pieces: Variations on Est-ce Mars by Sweelinck; Praeludium in D major by Buxtehude; Invocation by David Matthews; and Pomp & Circumstance March No. 4 by Elgar, arr G R Sinclair. The Great chorus is based on a 16ft principal and 8ft octave, their tonality having something of an 18th century English diapason in quality, being warm, clear and articulate, yet unforced. The carefully chosen pipe scales and voicing cut-ups (the height of the pipe’s top lip) are consistent throughout each department’s choruses, including mixtures, which blend with an understated subtle clarity that is quite breath-taking.
St George's Hanover Square, 1725 Gerald Smith case enlarged in 1894 Photo C Jilks
Each manual division is beautifully proportioned, the organ containing irresistible flutes, expressive strings, diapasons and mutations; together with its colourful reeds and generous Pedal section, the whole instrument comes together, speaking with the refined sophistication worthy of a Mayfair débutante at her eloquent best, even the tremulant’s gentle rhythm is perfection. I t is tuned to the unequal temperament of Neidhardt 1732 which, after trying, our Deputy President, Colin Jilks, found not too distant from our normal equal temperament, allowing all keys to be used but with some key colour. This is a church which has the ability to raise funds and, with the understandable desire for a new organ, the propensity to spend it. A discreet enquiry revealed that, including the sumptuous case restoration, the cost of the instrument was just short of one million pounds, but undoubtedly worth every penny.
This is a very fine organ which left members greatly impressed, even enjoying its flat straight pedalboard and North German drawstop jambs. Its specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 3 2 1v 111 16 8; Swell Organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 4 3 2 13/5 111 8 8; Choir Organ, 8 8 8 4 4 4 2 11 8 8; Pedal Organ, 32 16 16 16 8 8 4 111 16 8 4, with six couplers, tremulant and eight pistons to each manual.
After lunch we arrived at the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, its Georgian interior, with white painted gallery woodwork, clear leaded windows and barrel roof, much lighter than St George’s dark wood galleries and pews. We were welcomed by Richard Hobson, who has been Organist and Director of Music since 1981, together with the professional choir. He was closely involved with William Drake in the design of the new organ completed in 1991. This was an organ built within the 1732 Abraham Jordan case, set in the west gallery. Here the restored case has retained its original three tower proportions, the Swell and Pedal sections set, out of sight, immediately behind the main Great case, their sound reflected down by the barrel roof. Tonally and mechanically it is 18th century English in style, even recreating the long compass ‘G’ keyboards of the period. The pipe scales are based on the surviving Jordan front case pipes, with reference to other 18th century organs; the Great cornet is copied from the England organ at Blandford Forum in Dorset and the reeds based on an early 19th century William Allen organ at Everingham, Yorkshire.
Richard Hobson demonstrated with several suitable pieces: Voluntary in G by Henry Purcell; Voluntary in A major Op.7 No.1 by John Stanley; Voluntary in A by William Selby and four pieces from J S Bach’s Orgelbüchlein. The English diapasons are a delight, their purring character reflected throughout the Great chorus, which blend equally with the breathy stopped diapason; the five rank cornet is skilfully voiced with an engaging unforced colour. The reeds have an earthy decisive edge, eminently complementing the diapasons and flutes. The pedalboard is straight and flat and there are four extra foot pistons which operate when the Great to Pedal coupler is engaged allowing the lowest Great notes to be coupled.
Richards. Fowkes & Co, Vox Humana Photo C Jilks
The organ’s specification is: Great Organ, 8 84 4 22/3 2 111 111-1v v 8; Swell Organ, 8 8 4 2 111 111 8 8 Tremulant; Pedal Organ, 16 8 16, with three couplers and mechanical action throughout; the Great Trumpet is divided with a separate drawstop for treble and bass, as is the Swell cornet. In keeping with its period, the organ is tuned to an unequal temperament, one devised by William Drake to give an authentic tonal colour. This is some way from equal temperament resulting in a few uncomfortable keys, and Richard Hobson always transposes hymns set in A major and some of the flat keys. Nevertheless, as a 20th century recreation of an 18th century English organ, it is a delight, and members were utterly charmed by this engaging instrument. Conversely, a few, perhaps more discerning members, although regarding it to be a worthy period reproduction, consider it one in which the individual ranks reflect the organs from which they were copied, leaving the organ without that indefinable quality making it an homogenous whole.
Grosvenor Chapel, double organ case Photo C Jilks
The third Mayfair organ arranged for us was at The Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street. Entering through the west door, this eight-hundred seat early Victorian church presents an awesome picture of soaring Gothic architecture, clothed in a detailed feast of colour. The long nave, flanked by numerous small chapels, gives an unobstructed view of the sumptuous sanctuary and high altar where, even though no service was in progress, there was a compelling holy presence. The organ is set in the west end gallery, divided either side of a magnificent circular window, the console positioned centrally between the two organ cases. It was built by Bishop & Son in 1914, incorporating some twenty stops from t he 1880 s Anneessens organ. I t was rebuilt by Henry Willis & Sons in 1926 with electro-pneumatic action, its care returning to Bishop & Son in 1979 when, in collaboration with Nicholas Danby, a thorough restoration was undertaken. The organ is broadly English Romantic in style, although it reflects the tonal colours of its evolving history. Willis’s Swell 16ft Waldhorn and Great chorus mixture with its 17th rank still survive, although the organ’s reed stops have disappointingly lost some of the Willis fire and tonal edge which was his trade mark.
Making us welcome, Organist and Director of Music, David Graham, played four varied pieces to demonstrate the organ: Modus ludendi pleno Organo pedaliter Grand-Choeur – Voluntary on 5th Mode by Weitz. The organ has a romantic charm and church-filling power with much to choose from its sixty-nine registers, including an unusual 1ft piccolo stop nestling among the Swell mutations. The organ’s specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 111 111 8 4: Swell organ, 8 8 88 8 4 4 1 111 16 8 8 4; Choir organ, 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 11/5 8 8; Pedal organ, 32 16 16 16 8 8 51/3 4 4 16 8, with usual couplers.
1926 Henry Willis console Photo C Jilks
There is a compelling musical heritage here at Farm Street, with notable organists including Guy Weitz, organist from 1917-1967 and Nicholas Danby, organist from 1967-1997, and Organist & Director of Music 1971-1997. We must thank our President, Nicholas King, for arranging this most revealing and enjoyable day in Mayfair, with three contrasting organs, all outstanding examples of their genre, set in an attractive part of London. Yes, Berkeley Square was indeed blossoming, although the romantic voice of the nightingale was difficult to discern amongst the vibrant rattle of London’s taxi cabs.
Bishop & Son, Farm Street Photo C Jilks
NESTLI N G close to the North Downs on the River Stour, the village of Wye recently featured in a Sunday Times survey as being one of the most attractive places to live in Britain, it ranked third on their list of 101 best sites, and visiting on 17 May this year, we found nothing to detract from such a prestigious award. Wye’s Parish Church of St Gregory & St Martin is an attractive centre for much that happens in the village, and we were honoured to be welcomed by Mark Deller, who still plays a leading role in the Stour Music Festival, founded in 1962 by his father, counter-tenor Alfred Deller, with its particular interest in early music. Another distinguished guest during the afternoon was Elizabeth Wicks, widow of Canterbury’s Allan Wicks, who sadly died in 2010; both Mark and Elizabeth were charmingly gracious, their unassuming eminence an added pleasure to an already engaging afternoon.
Finding our way through a tangle of country lanes, we gathered first at St Mary’s Church, Brook, just a few miles from Wye. This beautifully preserved Norman church, dating from 1097, is perfection, with its gently curving chancel arch and its substantial square tower, reputed to be among the largest surviving Norman towers in England. Church member, Carl Kistrup, gave us an introduction to this interesting church with its 13th century wall paintings, 14th century chancel tiles and a fascinating squint hole or ‘hagioscope’ in the north wall of the sanctuary, reputedly used, at one time, by a colony of lepers on the North Downs.
F H Browne & Sons, Brook Photo C Jilks
The sanctuary magically glowed as a shaft of sunlight stabbed through a clear leaded window, lighting the early 13th century east wall paintings behind the stone altar, paintings which are surprisingly well preserved and less faded than the nave paintings. Carl described many features of the church, including the hagioscope and the tower with its first floor Priest’s Room, and unusual overview of the sanctuary. Those who managed the tower’s rough spiral staircase, with its thirty-eight steps, enjoyed the view of the church nave and sanctuary from the spacious Priest’s Room and then, climbing to the belfry, found three substantial bells, which could be tolled, but not rung, in the English fashion.
The organ is a new one-manual and pedal instrument by F H Browne & Sons which incorporates a diapason rank from an earlier organ. Installed in 2013, its simple case eloquently fits the building and its specification is: Manual, 8 8 8 4, with octave coupler, and Pedal, 16, with manual to pedal coupler; the gedact, salicional and gemshorn are enclosed in an effective swell box, with the diapason forming the front pipe display. The organ’s actions are direct electric, which allows the octave coupler to operate the extra octave of pipes supplied for each rank, enabling a complete chorus to 2ft pitch.
St Mary's Church, Brook Photo C Jilks
Dean Hayward, one of St Mary’s organists, demonstrated the organ for us with: Elgar’s Nimrod, then Fidelis by Percy Whitlock, and Choral Song by S S Wesley. Nimrod’s hushed opening, with its mellifluous, yet sombre salicional and gedact chords under careful control of the swell box, then gradually swelling to, effectively, almost full organ as the diapason was added. In Fidelis and Choral Song the organ’s full resources were used, demonstrating a more than adequate sound for this small church. Tonally this organ is a delight and, with a light responsive action, a pleasure to play.
A full programme lay ahead at Wye with a conducted tour of the church, with its striking Queen Anne chancel. The church dates originally from the Norman period, but was substantially rebuilt by John Kemp, Archbishop of Canterbury, in the mid-15th century. The chancel was destroyed in 1686, but rebuilt in 1706 in its present Queen Anne style.
An excellent tea was available before Mark Deller outlined the history of the organ. There had been a small organ in the chancel, but something more substantial was needed and an instrument by Albert Keates of Sheffield, built for Central Hall Sheffield in 1928, became available in 1972; it was installed and modernised by Peter Hutchings of Colefield. Being a two-manual organ, but with a three-manual console, in readiness for the installation of a Choir section, it was decided to retain part of the old chancel organ, which was then installed in a separate small case set opposite the main organ as a Positive section, playable from the third manual. The organ was, most probably, originally built with pneumatic action, but new electric actions were used for the installation at Wye. I ts specification is now: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 8; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 2 111 16 8 8 8; Positive Organ, 8 4 4 22/3 2 11; Pedal Organ, 16 16 16 8 8 4 16, with extensive couplers. The Swell oboe rank is extended to provide 16ft and 8ft pitches, which are also available on the Pedal.
We were most fortunate to have our member Janet Hughes to give a recital demonstration, with three pieces thoughtfully chosen to highlight the different sections of the organ; Janet plays occasionally at the church and is well acquainted with its predictable idiosyncrasies. Opening with the first movement of Bach’s 2nd Concerto in A minor, she immediately gripped our attention, then, as a contrast, Frank Bridge’s Adagio in E, finishing the recital with Fantasia in F minor by Mozart K608. The Mozart made use of the Positive section flutes and mutations with engaging echo effects contrasting with the main organ with its rich full diapasons, bell like flutes and rich Swell reeds. Regrettably, the tuning of the Positive section was rather poor in places, as was some of the main organ, but this in no way detracted from Janet’s superbly musical playing, which was undoubtedly the highlight of the afternoon. W e must also thank Dean Hayward at Brook, whose careful choice of music and sensitive playing brought the Brook organ enchantingly to life.
Albert Keates organ, Wye Photo C Jilks
We particularly thank our member Keith Rishworth, who so kindly arranged the whole afternoon for us, allowing us to sample and enjoy some of the delights of this part of Kent.
APPRECIAT I N G the inevitable vicissitudes of country lanes and motorways last June, a thirty strong KCOA coach party travelled in eager anticipation of a day of interest amongst the Surrey Hills. We visited four churches and organs, one in Godalming and three in Guildford. The specification and history of the four organs is wide ranging, with only one, built in 1988 by Saxon Aldred, offering an untouched pedigree. Nevertheless, there was much to enjoy as we arrived at Godalming where we were greeted by the familiar face of John Belcher, organist of St Peter & St Paul Parish Church. The organ here is an impressive 3-manual and pedal 1887 William Hill, built for Queen Victoria’s Golden Jubilee. I t retains its imposing case by Dr Arthur Hill, with its castellations and decorative pipe shades, containing the organ’s main Great and Swell departments, speaking directly along the building’s large north aisle; a smaller, less decorative, case of 1912 encloses the Choir and chancel Great, speaking south into the central choir. The organ was last restored in 1999 by F H Browne & Sons, with generous pistons and playing aids. John spoke of the organ’s modest tonal changes over the years and the difficulties with the original hydraulically powered blower, installed when the organ was new. Apparently, over time, the water pressure required to work the organ often dropped too low, the local water company not being able to maintain pressures reliably with a growing Godalming population. In 1914, after many years of frustration and silent services, an electric Rockingham blower was installed, allowing the organ to speak at its reliable best once more.
1887 William Hill, Godalming Photo C Jilks
The organ still retains its fundamental tonal structure, with rich William Hill diapasons and reeds, the 1912 chancel Great and choir mutations adding versatility and colour. John demonstrated the organ for us with three pieces: Offertoire for Easter, O filii et filiae by Boëly; 2 Sketches by Schumann; and Communion and Sortie, two movements from Suite Liturgique by Denis Béddard. John’s enjoyable playing demonstrated the solid, yet clear, Hill choruses, the sweet choir mutations and a particularly melodic clarinet. The organ’s specification is: Great Organ, 16 8 8 8 4 4 22/3 2 111 8; Chancel Great, 8 8 4 2; Swell Organ, 8 8 8 8 4 4 2 111 16 8 8 8 4; Choir Organ, 8 8 8 4 22/3 2 13/5 8 8; Pedal Organ, 32 (d