Click here for Richard’s Recital Round-Up, July 2020

Southwark and South London Society of Organists newsletter – July 2nd, 2020

Welcome to this newsletter, which, at the moment, is our main way of keeping in touch.  However, please do also see our website on, now in the new and capable hands of Sam Gover.

I hope that you like our logo, which I have managed to enlarge, only to find that it is inside out!  Hopefully somebody can tell me how to get it right in future.

Various bits of information are included on this newsletter and you are welcome to comment and to offer any news for the next letter.   We are sending our e-mails to a representative of many other local organists’ groups, so that, if they choose, they can pass on our news and send us theirs to us.

First, please look at this newssheet from our national organisation, the IAO, here.

Our Committee (sort of) met last Sunday and, as you will have guessed, we have had to cancel forthcoming events: August 15th (social), September 26th (visit to churches), October 17th (choral workshop) and November 25th (social and discussion on repertoire).  Next year’s plans are in preparation, but clearly anything could happen between now and then.

However, we have reserved two of these dates for open meetings on Zoom; you can take part even if you haven’t used the system before:

1. Do join at 2.30p.m. on Saturday, August 15th. and suggest topics; maybe “where we go from here”?  I am also hoping that we shall learn more about the churches in Merton and Wimbledon which we were to have seen in September, with a view to finding another date.

2. Also 7.30p.m. on Saturday, October 17th, when we might talk about choral matters, such as recruitment and repertoire.   More ideas are welcome.

I sent a quiz to our last newsletter; the answers are attached here.  I hope that you fared OK; it was quite a challenge.

Thinking of puzzles, I received this from Reg Boulton and Michael Bell from the Bexley and District Organists’ Association:

“I spent much of yesterday bothering about the following: A crossword clue: Stop! Song-writer holds short pipe with contempt. (11)

K – – – – – – – – – o – (11)

From the eleven letters of the answer, I idly discovered with some amazement, at least 187 other words of three letters or more could be formed! Can anybody beat that total? I have a feeling there are more.  Letters may be used only once in any word. No proper nouns or names allowed.  English only and OED, not 21st century Scrabble-style intruders.  No prizes…except for the positive feeling of having passed one more day without going too much further round the  bend.”

Music to hear

1. Our member and former Chair of the Society Marilyn Harper has sent in this humbling and thought provoking link.

2. Some Handel on the harpsichord.

3. Some enlightenment on theology from The Donald.

4. Another of our members and a composer, Peter Smith, has written this organ piece.  He asks you to name the tune on which it is based.

5. Our member Ian Clifford came on this link to an amazing male soprano; this is a short clip, but there are more on the internet.

6. Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony, first movement, played on the organ by Dr. Michael Svostak (Poland), who will be giving a recital at my church in South London next year.

7. Two more (and varied) links from Marilyn, who says:  “I received these clips just now and thought to share as they are rather nice, at least one of them is!  This clip is a nice arrangement of Some Day My Prince will Come. I don’t know who did the tech but it is far better than I can do!  And the other. Hope you enjoy at least one of them!”

8. Some of you may have come across Steven Devine, who once worked at Finchcocks, the keyboard museum at Goudhurst, in deepest Kent.  Here is an offering from him and his partner, the singer Kate Semmence:

9. My one-time student and now professional musician Charlie Warren has recorded this with his young choir “Hesperos”.

10. Here is John Rutter’s “A Clare Benediction” in a recent and moving performance; it united former students from around the globe from the 1960s to the present day.

11. From the Imperial Male Voice Choir comes a choral piece by Tchaikovsky, which you may recognise.

12. Neil Stevenson, who plays for me sometimes, recorded a beautiful piano piece by Grovlez.

13. A less serious item, from Reg Boulton again, offering an opinion on a certain type of church music.

I’ll send the next newsletter on or about July 30th, so remember to let me have anything in good time for that, please.

Our Vice Chair, Richard Pilliner, will be sending everyone an e-mail next week.  At some point, he plans to send out a “recital round-up”, but for the moment he will whet your appetite for the days when you and I can start playing (and listening) in churches again!

All good wishes,




Recent Events and Notices

You can find a copy of the June newsletter 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 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 RCO diplomas, and 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 by Anne Marsden Thomas and Frederick Stocken, Graded Keyboard Musicianship, which she thoroughly recommended. 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 to build up 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.


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:


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