Southwark and South London Society of Organists newsletter – July 30th, 2020

Another month nearly behind us!  Since last time, I have played for Sunday services for the last three weeks, so we are turning a corner; I hope that the playing organists amongst you are making progress?  It would be good to hear how various churches are doing.

Do see our website: sslso.org.uk for various information.  Sam, who maintains our website now, says: “If anyone wishes to contribute to the website – articles, useful links, lockdown recordings, in fact any relevant information of any kind – please send to info@sslso.org.uk.  Recordings may be sent via a service such as wetransfer.com which can deal with the large file sizes.”

You’ll know that our meetings until the end of the year are cancelled, but we have two chances to meet on Zoom: Saturday, August 15th. at 2.30p.m. and Saturday, October 17th. at 7.30p.m.  Details on the August meeting are below and the October one will (in part, at least) have a discussion on choral aspects of being an organist.  In the light of the planned closure of the current choir at Sheffield Cathedral and the professional choirs at two churches in Central London, there will be a lot to discuss…..quite apart from the ban on congregational singing (as opposed to having a cantor) in public worship currently.

Miscellaneous news, some serious and some not:

1. Peter Smith saw some shocking news about Manders, the organ builders: famous-organ-builder-goes-bust

2. I hope that you have responded to Richard Pilliner’s e-mail about your best loved pipe (or even non-pipe) organ.  If you have any recitals coming up (it’s going to happen soon!), do let Richard know, as he is planning to send out a “Recital Round Up” once that we have things to tell.

3. In that connection, please note that the intended organ recitals from September, October and November at Christ’s Chapel in Dulwich Village are cancelled until further notice.  When they restart, Marilyn Harper will let us know.

4. Ashley Valentine was involved in a project and wrote a brief operatic aria, which you can enjoy here; as well as the music, the filming is impressive.

5. The Hymn Society decide to have a “Hymn for the Day” during July; it had cancelled the annual conference and found this way to use the skills of many of its members.  All through the month, a new item has been added daily.  They have set a high bar with their offerings.

6. Peter Smith’s organ piece (sent last time) was based on the tune “Slane”, used for “Lord of all hopefulness”.

7. “Curiosity killed the cat” was first used by Ben Jonson (in answer to the question in the last newsletter).

8. Andrew Chadney sent this to various people, including someone in my church choir.  Something for the vestry notice board, perhaps?

9. Not very jolly, but this it’s informative.

10. This year’s graduation ceremonies (to say nothing of school end of year events) have been largely abandoned or postponed, but here is a moving way to deal with it from one college.

11. For your information, the BBC Proms are archive recordings until late August when, using reduced forces, live concerts will take place for two weeks.

12. A variation on a well known theme: apparently it was written by the punk rocker Ian Dury:

Our Driver
Who art in Hendon
Holloway be Thy name
Thy Kingston come
Thy Wimbledon
In Erith as it is in Hendon
Give us this day our Berkhamstead
And forgive us our Westminsters
As we forgive those who Westminster against us
Lead us not into Temple Station
And deliver us for Ealing
For Thine is the Kingston, the Purley and the Crawley
For Iver and Iver.
Crouch End


SATURDAY, AUGUST 15th at 2.30p.m,  Zoom Meeting


Peter Smith will speak about the churches in Merton and Wimbledon which we had hoped to be seeing in September.  Join us for a discussion on Zoom; members will receive the link for this earlier in the same week. Suggested topics (others can be offered; please let me know in advance, on chairman@sslso.org.uk

Have you had access to an organ (or piano) during the lockdown?
Have you had time to revise / relearn or even start new repertoire?
Has your church restarted Sunday services?
Are you using the organ..and for what (voluntaries, improvising)?
Have you had a cantor?

All good wishes,



Prior Newsletters

Richard’s Recital Round-up, July 2020

Newsletter July 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