Salisbury and District Organists' Association

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Master Class at Amesbury Abbey Church given by Anne Marsden Thomas, October 14th 2017

We were delighted that twenty seven people attended this event and that included visitors from neighbouring Associations and two non-members who had asked to come along.

As was to be expected Anne gave valuable constructive advice  to the ten people who had volunteered to perform. Her reputation goes before her and she managed to time the event beautifully so that no one was disadvantaged.

We are grateful to Alison Malcom for the use of the three manual organ at St Mary and St Melor and for arranging the refreshments.

Salisbury Organists' Outing to Malmesbury, Bremhill and Bowood House, May 13th 2017

On Saturday May 13th twenty members of the Association visited Malmesbury Abbey. We were welcomed by the organist John Hughes who demonstrated the organ with a number of pieces which showed the range of the instrument. The present organ was put in during the 1980s. The sound of the full   two manual organ  would suggest a larger instrument in the church  which has a generous acoustic. Our members gave it mixed reviews as some people found the strident tone of the reeds, mixtures and upper work somewhat out of balance. However it was good to hear  and have the chance to play an instrument with a larger range of tonal colour  than most of our members have at their disposal in their own churches.

At Bremhill we were delighted to hear Professor Christopher Kent talk to us about the one manual eighteenth century instrument in the Church. He is an authority on historic organs and has a comprehensive knowledge of the organs in the area and beyond. The beautiful mahogany case indicated that it had once been a house organ. Dr Kent played pieces by Sweelinck, Locke and J.S. Bach to illustrate the twelve stops including the Sesquielta.

We went on to Bowood House to hear a recital on the two manual organ given by Relf Clarke. He  played a good range of pieces to illustrate this tonally beautiful instrument which is tuned to Werkmeister 111. The impressive case behind the altar dates from an earlier instrument but the present organ was built in 2005 by Peter Collins. 

The Bowood House Website contains a comprehensive description of this organ by a member of the Gloucestershire Association when they made a visit to the chapel.

DVD Evening at Sarum College, Thursday March 9th 2017

The DVD evening held recently at Sarum College was well attended. David Dunnett, Organist of Norwich Cathedral gave a talk on the organ at Norwich Cathedral and gave us amusing insights into the making of the disc. We were able to see pictures of many of the pipes which go to make up the instrument and hear excerpts from the varied selection of pieces which make up the programme.

David Halls. Director of Music at our own Cathedral operated the projector and obviously enjoyed comparing notes with David D having previously made a DVD of the Willis organ in Salisbury Cathedral.

Wine and light refreshments rounded off a convivial evening..

Outing to Dean Close School & Cheltenham College, Saturday 16th Apr 2016

Thirteen of us enjoyed a comfortable minibus journey, with service-station coffee stop, and, on arrival at Dean Close School, were joined by five who had travelled by car. Dean Close was founded in 1886 and built in red brick. The chapel is lofty, spacious and plain with quite generous acoustics - except, we were told, when the whole school fills it. The chapel organist, Simon Bell, is also director of the Preparatory School choir who sing the services at Tewkesbury Abbey. He told us about the present organ's predecessor and the rationale, design and specification of the new instrument (NIcholson's, 2014), whihc occupies an elevated recess on the north side, with a spectacular front of mottled silver pipes. There are 39 speaking stops plus a Cimbelstern, over 3 manuals, the lowest consisting entirely of solo stops (see Paul Hale in OR Mar. 2015). Mr Bell demonstrated brilliantly with pieces by Howells and Walton (The Spitfire Prelude & Fugue), and several members took the opportunity to play.

Then on to Cheltenham College, where we had plenty of time to find lunch in town before meeting at the Chapel where we were welcomed by the organist, Mr Alexnader Finch. The College was founded in 1841, and bulit with grey stone in Victorian Gothic style. The Chapel is like a smaller version of King's, but without the fan vaulting. The organ, originally Norman & Beard (1897), Harrison & Harrison since 1930, has 44 speaking stops over 3 manuals. Having outlined its history and salient features, Mr Finch demonstrated all its various colours with a virtuoso performance of a piece by Naji Hakim. This is a wonderfully versatile and, at full throttle, impressively powerful instrument, and again we were privileged to have an opportunity to play.

Both schools have strong traditions of robust hymn singing, and both of these organs are well equipped to provide the necessary encouragement.

Seeing, hearing, and even playing two such magnificent instruments was a rare treat.

Thanks again to our Secretary Janice and all others involved in the arrangements.

William Alexander

Outing to Bournemouth, Saturday 20th Feb 2016

An outing which, at one point, seemed to have become restricted to St Stephen's Church, expanded to include first Wimborne St Giles (thanks to John Radford), and - at the last minute - the United Reformed Church just across the road from St Stephens.

The weather was as cold and wet as February can be. so we were grateful for the warm welcome with coffee and biscuits at St Stephens. The Organist, Ian Harrison, spoke about the history of this William Hill masterpiece, explaining recent overhauls and minor adjustments. The acoustics of the splendid J.L. Pearson church enhance still further the qualities of the 3-manual instrument, although its utilitarian casework is out of keeping with the building.

Mr Harrison played two pieces, including the first movement of Mendelssohn's 3rd Sonata in A major, after which several members took the opportunity to play, notably David Halls with a spontaneous improvisation on the tune Guiting Power.

We then had the choice between Parish Lent Lunch at Wimborne St Giles followed by a visit to the church, or a short walk to the United Reformed Church. Several of us found it possible to visit both venues by foregoing the lunch. The URF church, built in 1890, has a dry acoustic which does no favours for the bright and versatile c.40 stop 3-maunal organ, which has had several make-overs and is now mainly Willis. The Organist, Danny Campbell, told us about its history and demonstrated, and again several of us had time to play.

At Wimborne St Giles John Radford gave us an interesting account of the history of the church, often rebuilt and re-fashioned - once after a disastrous fire - well worth a visit in its own right, Ninian Comper work much in evidence. He demonstrated the small but beautifully voiced 2 manuals and pedals Harrison & Harrison, which seems to have everything we would wish for in our small village church organs, but sadly so often lack.

Many thanks to our Secretary, Janice, and all others who contributed to the making of an enjoyable day's outing.

William Alexander

Visit to Twyford and Owlesbury - May 16th 2015

Visit to Twyford and Owlesbury - May 16th 2015
Visit to Twyford and Owlesbury - May 16th 2015

Our first visit was to the  restored Walker organ in the chapel of Twyford School where Parry was a pupil  (and also Douglas Hurd) Although only a single manual instrument it is quite powerful and no doubt gives more than adequate support in school services.

We moved on to Twyford Church where  Mark Venning, former Managing Director of Harrison and Harrison, was able to describe the work done in restoring the Walker instrument. An important part of the brief was to retain as much of the pipework of the  Walker organ as possible  and this had been achieved most successfully. As always with Harrison and Harrison's work the case fitted in harmoniously  in the available space.  A number of members enjoyed the chance to play the two manual instrument.

In the afternoon we went to Owlesbury Church where we were warmly welcomed by the Lay Minister. This church has a number of interesting features including a Tudor Communion Cup and a Serpent (the old English musical variety!) The organ was a small Hill organ of 1864 which is largely unaltered.

It was good to see about sixteen members supporting this visit.

Master Class at Amesbury Abbey Church - Saturday October 3rd

The Association was fortunate in obtaining the services of David Davies, at the time Acting Director of Music  Exeter Cathedral, who had taken the place of Tim Hone at rather short notice.

Eight members volunteered to play pieces covering a wide range of composers including Clerembault , J S Bach,  Guilmant  Brahms Ireland and Flor Peeters and Malcolm Archer.

David Davies empathised with the performers and gave very  helpful advice on style and technique in a most friendly manner.

SDOA Visit to Ramsbury and Lambourn - February 21st 2015

SDOA Visit to Ramsbury and Lambourn - February 21st 2015
SDOA Visit to Ramsbury and Lambourn - February 21st 2015

A group of fifteen members of the Association joined the “Open Day” at Ramsbury Parish Church to see the Hill organ which had recently been restored by Nicholson of Malvern.

We were met by Frances Lofthouse who had been instrumental in driving the project to have the organ restored. Most helpful was the video recording of the various stages of the work as it was undertaken.

Members of both Associations played for about five minutes each which gave us a varied selection of music and we were able to hear the range  of stops the organ has to offer.

We were recommended to a local hostelry for lunch and then proceeded to Lambourn where we were met by the resident organist who told us something of the history of the the three manual Father Willis Organ which had been installed in 1858 and remains largely unaltered. Everyone enjoyed playing this instrument.

In fact both the organs were very comfortable to play and  all in all we had a moist enjoyable day.

More information about the Lambourn organ can be found on the website for Lambourn Church. There are also photos of the Ramsbury Organ Day on the Ramsbury Church website.

Centenary Year

To celebrate the centenary Year of the Association members of the Bournemouth Association were invited to join us at the Annual Cathedral Workshop. On November 17th. Five members of the BAO took part along with seven members from Salisbury and together they produced a varied and exciting programme of music ranging from Handel to Langlais. David Halls, President of the Salisbury Association hosted the evening and advised players on registration. In all about forty people attended the event which concluded with sherry and nibbles at 6, The Close.

The Centenary Dinner was held on December 1st 2014.

Members attended a Festival Evenson after which David Halls gave an Organ Recital. His programme included his own composition “A Salisbury Fanfare” followed by The Passacaglia and Fugue in Cmin BWV582 by J S Bach. A piece by Frederick Wood entitled “Sunrise on Stonehenge” and “Toccata, Fugue and Hymn on Ave Maris Stella” by Flor Peters completed the recital.

The Dinner was held in the Cathedral Refectory which was beautifully set out for the occasion and Dr Alan Thurlow gave the talk following the meal.

Members were each given a booklet of the history of the association which had been prepared by Ian Davidson. There was also a display of photographs of past events and outings and a letter from Her Majesty the Queen congratulating the Association on attaining their Centenary.

SDOA Visit to Edington Priory

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SDOA Visit to Edington Priory SDOA Visit to Edington Priory SDOA Visit to Edington Priory SDOA Visit to Edington Priory

We were blessed with a fine afternoon when twenty two members and guests met at Edington Priory Church where the Parish made us very welcome. The object of our visit was to see, hear and play the recently installed organ by Harrison and Harrison.

We were told something of the history of the installation and the resident Organist demonstrated the range of the instrument after which we all had a chance to play it. I think everyone found it a very comfortable instrument and between us we explored a range of sounds. I had heard it previously at one of the services at the Edington Festival and thought it sounded well in both full organ and choir accompaniments. Some of our members thought that it was a bit predictable and could have been a touch more exciting; nevertheless it is rather more exciting than the small instruments most of us play in our churches.

The case work is quite stylish and fits in well with the building. An interesting video showed something of the work in progress during the installation.

It was thought that one of our members was the first lady to play the instrument.

We were very grateful to Edington Parish Church for allowing us this opportunity.

Click here to view the organ's specifications

Janice Brown

Letter to Her Majesty the Queen and the reply received

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Letter to Her Majesty the Queen Reply from Her Majesty the Queen