Recital on Sunday, Nov 15th, 9pm

This Sunday 15 November 2020 at 9.00pm UK time, a recital in the Mexican Festival of Baroque Organs by our former Chair, Marilyn Harper, will be broadcast on YouTube. The link is here (or click the photo).  Marilyn writes:

“The first two recitals which have already taken place will come up first, scroll through to get to mine, which is third in the series. Music is by Handel, Whitlock, JS Bach, 17th Anon (Spanish), Harper, Alain.

“The Mexican organs are well worth hearing, and spectacular to look at. The first recital is given by Gustavo Delgado Parra, the organiser, and the second by him and his wife Ofelia. Explanations as to how the organs work and have been restored are given in Spanish but the gist can be gleaned. The temperaments are far more extreme than the chapel organ so by the time you hear the Dulwich organ it will sound as smooth as a calm lake!

“Please give it a thumbs up! Thank you!”

Southwark and South London Society of Organists newsletter Oct 31st, 2020

From The Chair of SSLSO, John Webber:


Hello to all members on a weekend when we are concentrating more on All Saints and All Souls than on Halloween!

1. The recent discussion on Zoom (October 17th) replaced a meeting. There are notes taken by Peter Ramell and these are available here.

2. Your Committee has a good programme for 2021 and we sincerely hope that much of it will go ahead. We’ll let you have full details long before the end of the year. To start with, the first two meetings are fixed for January 11th and February 20th.

Monday, January 11th – Stephen Disley’s organ recital at Southwark Cathedral at 1.15p.m. We are invited to arrive earlier, to try the organ. Afterwards, meet at The Mudlark (next door) for a drink.

February 20th – Composite Recital at Penge Congregational Church at 2.30p.m.

Neither of these events can be guaranteed, but at the moment we must be optimistic!

We recently sent congratulations to Robert Bowles and Pieter Shaw, two SSLSO members who have passed the CRCO exam of the Royal College of Organists. Pieter explains more about the exam:

“The CRCO exam is aimed at amateur organists or as a ‘transition’ qualification to the ARCO diploma. As with all of the college’s exams the standard is high and the candidate is expected to show a good grasp of musicianship, not just playing organ repertoire well.

“The CRCO diploma comprises of two parts: the theoretical paperwork made up aural tests, some 4 part chorale harmonisation, 2 part counterpoint, analysis and a history topic relating to an aspect of organ music, or composer. The specific details are all clearly stated in the syllabus.
The playing part is made up of three pieces chosen from various lists rather comparable to associated board exams in that respect. The pieces are in many respects quite accessible being around grade 5 nudging on grade 6 standard. In addition to the pieces there are the musicianship tests. All candidates have to attempt a piece of sight reading. This is usually a short piece of organ music from the romantic period with possibly a change of manual or operation of the swell box required. There are no stop changes required at this level.
The next test is playing a hymn plus a short extension of extemporised music. The exam syllabus gives a list of 10 possible hymns from the New English Hymnal. The candidate is expected to provide a play over, first and last verses and a chosen middle verse and then extemporise of a theme from the hymn for around 30 seconds. The candidate can choose the third and final test from either transposition or realisation of a figured bass.

“Probably the best way to view the attainment of these diplomas is to see them as a process of
development from the first steps of preparation through to actually taking the exam itself. The
college provides a wealth of support for those on the exam pathway and there’s loads of material available to help along the way. These exams should be seen as a learning process to develop and improve both organ playing skills as well as practical musicianship in the broadest sense. The exams themselves can seem daunting but they are worth working towards. Learning new skills can actually be quite fun even if sometimes rather challenging.
Finally it’s worth mentioning that all the RCO diplomas are now modular. This means that you can ‘bank’ the sections where you are successful and retake those where you don’t quite make the grade. There’s no shame here, many candidates have to retake one or more sections of the diploma. The college recognises that and gives the candidate 4 years to gain a pass in all sections!

“Many organists have a slightly jaundiced view of RCO diplomas. They are undoubtedly intended to be challenging but they are also attainable. There really has to be a commitment to consistent (probably) daily practice over time and probably more important of all, get yourself an organ teacher to support you through the journey.”

As recitals are beginning again, do let Richard Pilliner hear from you of anything which he can help to publicise. Please email him directly or via chairman@sslso.org.uk.

Arthur Wills RIP
Arthur Wills died this week, aged 94. He was famously Director of Music at Ely Cathedral for many years.

Threat to Freedom Pass
Thanks to the Bromley & Croydon Association for this, which they received from Judith Howard: “I’m sure you will have heard on the News that the govt. is trying to force Tfl into withdrawing our senior travel concessions in London. Bearing in mind the average age of organists these days, I guess this is of concern to many of us! I’m so worried about the threat to our free travel, that I have started a petition on Change.org, “Save the Freedom Pass for London Pensioners”. Here’s the link.

Celebrity Recital:
This is from Reg Boulton of the Bexley Society, with news of a recital by one of our own
members: “Greetings all! I trust everyone is keeping well. I know our association appears to be
doing nothing, but rest assured that we’re trying to get various things moving. For the moment, I can tell you that our celebrity recital is back on. Norman Harper at St John’s, Sidcup, on Saturday 27.3.21 at 7.30pm. I shan’t issue a flyer just yet, as the one I’d prepared mentioned food and wine being involved, but, as things stand at least at the present, refreshments won’t be an option. Things may change by then – we’ll see. And there will be support for this from the Bromley & Croydon and Southwark & S London associations, so it may well be that we have to put a limit on numbers and issue tickets beforehand. Again, we’ll wait and see. So, for the moment, please put the date in your diaries.”

More from the Bromley Association:
“Greetings Everyone! I received this information yesterday evening regarding an Organ Recital by Thomas Trotter at the Royal Albert Hall on Friday 20 November at 2.30 p.m. This is to be the first of a series of trial live events at the Hall before their ‘socially distanced’ reopening. Seats are limited and have just gone on public sale this morning at £10 each.”

Be among the first to head back to the Royal Albert Hall as we open our doors this November for our first socially-distanced ‘trial run’ ahead of our Christmas season. There will be a very limited number of seats available for this show. Thomas Trotter’s organ recital will feature popular repertoire from J.S. Bach’s to Eric Coates and Edward Elgar played by the renowned organist on the Hall’s majestic 9,999-pipe Henry Willis organ. Link here.

[Edit: Sadly this event has been cancelled due to second national lockdown]

Evensong from King’s College, London
Sue O’Neill in my Church Choir sent me this message: “This YouTube of Evensong at King’s London popped up in my Facebook. They have five female singers in the choir. The anthem, by Mendelssohn, is lovely.” Do enjoy it in these days when Evensong is less easy to attend. Link here.

Recitals with lots of organs, including Dulwich


See right the poster which Marilyn Harper has sent me. Yes, note the word “Dulwich” and the time to listen out! Remember that it will go live at 3pm Mexican time on 15 November, so we’ll be listening at 9.00pm UK time.  Link here to watch the live stream when it comes out.




Next newsletter will be on November 28th; do get in touch about anything which you think relevant and helpful.

Good wishes to all,



Recital Series at St. John’s, East Dulwich, 2021

April 10th Paul Gobey (Rotherhithe)
May 8th Irene Wolstenholme (South London)
June 19th Marcus Wibberley (St. George’s, Beckenham)
July 10th Bridget West (South London)
September 18th Michael Overbury (Newark, Nottinghamshire)
October 9th Michel Szostak (Poland)

Church of St. John the Evangelist, East Dulwich Road, SE22 9AT
Saturdays at 11.00a.m, followed by coffee and tea. Admission free; retiring collection. Music lasts about forty minutes.

Favourite Organs – August 2020

Hello Folks,

I have great pleasure in launching the first in our ‘favourite organ’ series, here (and see the accompanying specification here).

Our true and trusty chairman, John Webber, and committee member Norman Harper have opened a window into their favourite instruments, and Norman has included mp3 recordings of part of a recital that he gave at King’s College, Cambridge: Tranchell and Reger.

These two offerings are full of interest and I hope some more of you will come forward with some news and views of your favourite organs, to share with members of the society in September/October.

I also welcome news of forthcoming recitals and their programmes.



Prior Newsletters

Newsletter October 31st, 2020

Newsletter September 27th, 2020

Richard’s Recital Round-up, July 2020

Newsletter August 29th, 2020

Newsletter July 30th, 2020

Newsletter July 2nd, 2020

Newsletter June 2020

Newsletter May 2020

Recent Events and Notices


Saturday, October 17th   Following two highly successful online events over the summer, we had a discussion (on Zoom) on choral aspects of the work of church musicians. Members were invited to talk about their experience of running church choirs and singing groups, musical repertoire, recruitment, mixed ability (and ages) within choirs, and how they and their churches have managed recently. All SSLSO members received a link to join the discussion and members of other local societies were also invited to join if they wished. A note of the event is here.

On Saturday 6th June an online meeting, entirely informal in nature, was offered as a substitute for the day-trip to Thaxted and Saffron Walden parish churches, which sadly had to be postponed for the usual current reasons. A real shame, as the two towns and churches are very attractive, and in fine weather are glorious to behold. The organs, of course, are very special.

So instead, all members were sent a message via email, asking if they would like an invitation and link to take part in Saturday evening’s  meeting, which took place using the zoom app.  Please find a note of the meeting here.


Saturday 23rd May saw our former Chair, Marilyn Harper, lead the Keyboard Skills workshop. This was the Society’s first virtual event, hosted over zoom with four participants and seven observers. Keyboard skills, including transposition, figured bass, sight reading and improvisation are core elements of the three Royal College of Organists’ diplomas. Marilyn recommended starting young if possible! Indeed two of the workshop participants were among our younger members, Ben (aged 11) and Joe (aged 15). Marilyn started the workshop looking at exercises from the books written jointly by Anne Marsden Thomas and Frederick Stocken, Graded Keyboard Musicianship, which she thoroughly recommended. Published in two volumes by Oxford University Press, these provide 5 “lessons” at each of 8 “levels”. Each lesson covers Figured bass, Score Reading, Harmonising a Melody, Transposing and Improvising. Ben and Joe performed admirably, realizing the given chord sequences for figured bass, adding them for harmonization, and transposing melodies up and down a tone. Sight reading followed, which was accomplished equally as well. Next, Alan and Robert looked at transposing a four part hymn tune up or down by one or two semitones, which is a requirement for both the Colleague Diploma (CRCO) and Associateship Diploma (ARCO). Marilyn recommended working through the Hanon studies in different keys, to build up technique skills in transposition, and using a metronome for practice – always count in, and start at a slow tempo and work your way up. The workshop concluded with a discussion over zoom among all present, and we of course expressed our gratitude to Marilyn for a thoroughly enjoyable and insightful workshop.



1. Here on the left is our start at gaining wider interest in playing the organ that has been highlighted in the May RSCM newsletter. Click here (or the click the picture) to get the whole newsletter.

2. There is a lot of stuff in this website that you may have missed. For example:  John Mitchel made a splendid film about the history and workings of the pipe organ;  hear our President, Harry Bramma, improvise on All Saints, Tootings’s magnificent Harrison; hear Richard Pilliner’s impromtu improvisation at St John’s east Dulwich.  So look at Norman Harpers’s easy guide to improvisation here, and you could do this too!

3.There is lots of stuff going online now that would have involved expensive travel,  accommodation and time cost. This is the time to take advantage of what’s available.

4. There is amazingly free access to the RCO media learning program. https://www.rco.org.uk/news_displaystory.php?newsid=313

and  https://www.rco.org.uk/news_displaystory.php?newsid=316

5. News from Marilyn Harper about the Leeds International Organ Festival. Lots of music on YouTube (for the obvious reasons). To experience this music go to: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCclwfVFDX69EvnA48MXmMug?view_as=subscriber


6.New SSLSO Master class about Improvisation has been created by Norman  Harper for you to self learn. Improvisation is something everyone can do.  Follow this link to get more information about this course and access to five short videos to help you.

7. Organist required for St Paul’s Parish of Herne Hill. The advert is here. The closing date has been extended.

8. Please see the May 2020 newsletter here, and have a go at the quiz! (answers here)

9. See these name poems about organ composers, written by Marion Whistle, a friend of one of our members.

10. A message to members of the SSLSO from the RCO, concerning Advocacy for Organists.

11. Organ advice from CofE concerning maintenance during lock-down, here.

12. Some interesting articles in the Church Times concerning, Singing, and new draft guidance on Baptisms, weddings and funerals.  More on Singing here in an article by Ed Ballard.

13.  Many of you will be aware from the media of the latest change in government regulations regarding the use of religious buildings for private prayer. Less well-publicised is that it contains the following specific provision for organists….  Activities such as singing and/or playing instruments should be avoided, with the exception of organists who are able to use buildings for practice with appropriate social distancing.  The full text can be found here.


Note we do not know which of these events will be allowed to go ahead, but the moment we do they will be signaled here.

Notification of Society Events in 2020


Committee member Bridget has put together the entire programme of events for 2020. Enlarge and download (if you wish) click on the green page. As you will see there are number of new event  taking place in forthcoming year. Further information will be emailed to you nearer the time of the event.





Summary of the Society’s activities

These two inserts describe the activities of the Society – click to enlarge