Southwark and South London Society of Organists newsletter – August 29th, 2020

There is slow and continuing (if not suddenly announced) progress for church musicians. The recent SSLSO Zoom session gave members a chance to discuss how they were managing to move on and Peter Ramell’s helpful notes are attached here. Individual SSLSO members report their progress: Ian Boddington says that services will return to his church in Sutton in November; John Mitchell says: “At Warlingham we’re trying to construct some kind of ‘new normal’ which, currently relies on replacing the hymns with hymn-tune preludes (mostly improvised – though I was able to use Bach’s ‘Ein Feste Burg’ last week where “a safe stronghold” was one of the hymns on the list). And using soloists doubling as cantors. (we’d normally do this during August anyway when the choir is officially on holiday). But based on the government’s latest advice we’re planning to re-start choir in September.” John has offered this link to last Sunday’s service.

I’ll be pleased to hear your own experience of starting back at church; although organ playing was possible from July 5th, in the end the starting date is the decision of various local people who have to see what is safe for their circumstances.

The organisation “Making Music” announced last night: ‘Clarification has arrived from the DCMS, and in England there are now “no set limits on the numbers who can be involved in planned non-professional activity taking place outside and/or in a COVID-secure venue.”’
Other news:
1. Sadly I must report the deaths of two organists who will be known to some of you:

Graham Powell, our former Chair, says: “I have just got home after practicing to hear that Michael Barlow died recently. I’d known him since I started practicing at Limpsfield in 1997, since when we often teamed up for choral evensongs at Limspfield, Westerham, Kemsing and many churches around the Home Counties and beyond. Music was his life and he was very highly thought of at Westerham. Fond memories of our last Evensong together at All Saints, Marlow last year. Michael often brought singers along to Amici Cantantes Evensongs and was very supportive. He’ll be sadly missed.

Christopher Town of the Bromley Association says: “I am extremely sorry to bring you the very sad news that Christian Strover – our former President and longest serving Member – died yesterday (23rd.). Martyn Christian Tinne Strover, MA, BLitt, FRCO (CHM), was born in Colchester, Essex in 1932 and was a Music Scholar at Bryanston School before becoming Organ Scholar at Hertford College, Oxford.He has been Organist at Christ Church Beckenham since 1956 and a Member of our Association throughout that time. Until 1997 he was the distinguished Director of Music at Emanuel School Wandsworth and has been closely involved with the Beckenham Festival for many years. A fine composer and arranger, he is known throughout the world for “Water of Life” for which he wrote both words and music. He also adapted a teaching of St Paul to create “Parents, don’t exasperate your children”! A man of many talents, Christian was also a skilled craftsman and furniture maker.”

Another message to me points out that Christian died on his birthday (as did my mother in 2016!).

2. On a cheerier note, our young member Ben Abraham has achieved 132 out of 150 for ABRSM Grade 8 Piano. Congratulations to him!

3. Well done to Richard Pilliner for producing that recent mailshot (see more below); Richard would love to hear from you if you have organ recitals to announce (when they get going – a few have) or just a few words about the church organ which you most enjoy playing, with a short description (and maybe a photo or two).

4. Peter Smith has been as occupied as ever in composing organ music. This is the link to his compositions and the Six Preludes are his latest offering: click here.

5. Our member Ian Clifford recorded the bells of St. George’s, Beckenham recently and I included this last time. It’s worth another listen, especially as Ian managed to get the recording on to Radio 3 on Martin Handley’s Sunday programme during August. Hear the bells again!

6. Ian has also sent me this: “(Here) is a Youtube clip of a lady called Loreto Aramendi playing the St. Sulpice organ in Paris, but what makes it quite amusing is that she has no less than three stop pullers, one of whom is Daniel Roth who apparently is the organist at St Sulpice. The organ looks to be quite a monster but to my viewing they don’t seem very organised! It is France though, and she does play it superbly.”  See it here.

7. There is a promising future for this young man.

8. Harpsichordist Steven Devine and his partner, the singer Kate Semmence have produced another topical song: Covid Conundrum and Steven has recorded several pieces, of which this is one. If you are interested to find out more about Steven’s music, do use this link to e-mail him.

9. Thanks to the Kent County Association and Ian Verran of the Bromley group for making this news available: Mander’s and Browne’s

“The following post has just appeared on Browne’s Facebook page: F H Browne & Sons ltd is delighted to announce that it has acquired the trading name and intellectual property rights of Mander Organs Ltd. From 1st October 2020, F H Browne (Organ Builders) Ltd will trade under the name Mander Organs for all current and future contracts. Both companies are based in South East England, and three of the current FHB employees (including myself) are former employees of Mander Organs, so there are immediate synergies. We are delighted to have made this transition and look forward to working with our present and future customers both in the UK and Internationally.

Stephen Bayley (Managing Director).”

10. Ian Verran also offers these alternative words to a well known hymn.

11. We’ll have another Zoom session on October, on Saturday 17th. at 7.30p.m, with a choral emphasis (but no doubt other matters too).

Another newsletter in four weeks; do be in touch if you have news or comments.

Good wishes to all,



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

Richard’s Recital Round-up, July 2020

Newsletter July 30th, 2020

Newsletter July 2nd, 2020

Newsletter June 2020

Newsletter May 2020

Recent Events and Notices

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