Author Archives: OrganistA

Composite Recital 2021

It was on a dark evening on the 20th February 2021 that fifty intrepid organists made the long and perilous journeys from their sofas to their desks to participate in the SSLSO’s annual “Composite Recital”. In years past this had been held in Penge Congregational Church, but this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was held via Zoom. Nineteen people had submitted recorded pieces covering a very satisfying range of periods and styles, and even included pieces beautifully played on piano by some of our younger participants. It was a great joy to hear so many composers ranging from the well-known “Anon 17C”, taking in such luminaries as Purcell, Buxtehude, Bach, Brahms, Elgar, Dupré, Franck, and Howells, to Philip Glass and an expertly crafted trio sonata by our own committee member Peter Smith, which, he explained, is still work in progress, but which I am sure many of us will want to try in due course. Being able to watch the score unfold as Peter played was a great benefit. Richard kept the programme flowing very expertly, but even he seemed to exhaust his stock of superlatives as the evening progressed! It was indeed a very memorable recital. I estimate that we heard from 16 different instruments, ranging from piano and several home-practice instruments up to the magnificent organ at St Bavo’s Haarlem. And we covered some 400 years of music. In sheer variety and scope this definitely put the nine organ recital at Westminster Cathedral a couple of years ago into the shade ! The second part of the evening was devoted to a talk by William McVicker, curator of the Royal Festival Hall organ. His subject was “The Classical Revival” and he charted the stormy trajectory of organ building and design in the early part of the 20th Century, culminating in the Royal Festival Hall instrument which some of us visited in August 2019. A dominant figure of the classical revival was Albert Schweitzer and several of our members mentioned that his tempi, prizing clarity above brute speed, had been a formative influence in their own musical development. Schweitzer’s critique of the Festival Hall instrument, which achieved front-page coverage in the national press (and which needs to be read in a heavy German accent), was “She looks like a chemical factory, but she is magnificent, she is beautiful.” It was interesting to hear about the personal lives of some of the key players in the organ-building world, and speculate that had some of their personal relationships worked out differently, the young Ralph Downes studying in America would not have received the support and inspiration for his ideas which led, eventually, to the design and fulfilment of the RFH instrument. In his closing remarks Dr McVicker commented that we were currently enjoying a neoromantic revival in organ music, and suggested that a revival of interest in Hindemith’s organ works was overdue. So there’s an idea for next-year’s recital that someone might want to follow up!

John Mitchell, 2021

Performed byTitleComposer
Irene WolstenholmePassacaglia in D minBuxtehude (1637-1707)
Joe DaviesThe Duke of York’s MarchAnon (17c.)
Andrew ChadneyMaster Tallis TestamentHerbert Howell (1892-1983)
Charlie WarrenHerzlich tut mich erfreuenJohannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Andrew ChadneyAlbum LeafMartin Ball
Geremia GoverMeditationAlan Bullard
Sam GoverVesper Voluntary no3Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Beryl BediakoAirHenry Purcell (1659-1695)
Beulah BediakoVoluntary XIDomenico Zipoli (1688-1726)
John WoodhouseElegyArthur Wills (1926-2020)
Alan LangridgePrelude in B minor BWV544J S Bach (1685-1750)
Nicky JonesTe Splendor et Virtus PatrisMarcel Dupré (1861-1971)
Ann HubbleFugue on a Russian NoelRienhold Gliere (1875-1956)
Pieter ShawMeine Seele erhebet den HerrnJ S Bach (1685-1750)
William McVickerAndantinoCésar Franck (1822-1890)
Robert BowlesAllegretto in F Op.101 no.1Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)
Graham AnsteyMad RushPhilip Glass (1937-)
Peter SmithTrio SonataPeter Smith
Marilyn HarperPraeludium in A BuxWV151Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Norman HarperFugue on the Magnificat BWV733J S Bach (1685-1750)
Links to the performances

Southwark and South London Society of Organists Newsletter June 9th, 2021

HM guidelines on singing in churches have been baffling and we wait with baited breath for next week’s statement.

Recent events:

May 11th:  Norman Harper contributed to a series for the Winchester group.  He spoke about modern organ music and improvisation.

May 15th:  We held a quiz on Zoom, which was well attended. Thanks to Sarah Best, Ann Hubble and Mike Cooke for their questions, to Robert Bowles for hosting the evening and to Peter Wright. He spoke to us about his current role as interim Director of Music at Ripon Cathedral, which will continue a few more months.

June 5th:  Last Saturday’s outing to rural Essex was supported by fifteen of us and was our first “live” meeting since early last year.  I have attached two photos and there are more to be found here. The first photo attached to this newsletter is from the URC and you can see Thaxted Parish Church in the background; the other is of a group of us with our host Ann Pickhaver at Thaxted Parish Church. There, Ann reminded us of the history of the building, especially the musical activities; Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst had shared the organ playing for services about a century ago. They used the Lincoln organ of 1821, which our group was allowed to try. Holst had lived in the town for several years. Do look up the names of Conrad Noel and Jack Putterill, well known parish priests in Thaxted and quite unusual; those were heady days! Ann was particularly pleased to see us, since we were the first group for well over a year to be welcomed into what is usually a very bustling building. We were sorry that the usual organist, Christopher Bayston, was unwell; instead, local clockmaker Oliver talked to us about the mechanical aspects of the organ. There are an electronic organ and a G P England (Conacher?) organ at the west end, this latter probably not usable.
We went around the corner to the United Reformed Church, where Sue Freeman welcomed us. This church has a two manual Conacher organ of c.1883. We then went on to St. Mary’s PC in Saffron Walden, a prominent building in a busy market town. Oli King, Director of Music (he once played at St. Peter’s, Streatham) demonstrated the main organ, a four manual Norman and Beard of 1911-12. Peter de Vile, who had worked on the organ in 2007, gave us a history and description of the instrument before we were allowed to play it. Many thanks to Norman for organising this trip, which he did with great thoroughness!

Forthcoming events:

Saturday, August 14th:   Summer social from 12.30p.m, through the kind invitation of our member Timothy Byram-Wigfield, who says:

“The location (SW4 6LT) is well-connected for public transport. I’ve attached a couple of photos to give an impression below, along with location information. It’s a quiet residential area, although the flight path occasionally makes its presence known. There’s a large paved patio and lawned area, and a gate at the very back (beyond the “horti-husbandry” greenhouse area, behind the hedge) for easy access.

“Inevitably suitability depends on likely numbers and previous requirements. The garden is all on street level, but there is a disadvantage for wheelchair users, as from the patio there are 6 steps down to the toilets and bathroom.

“If wet weather, folk will be very welcome to eat inside. It’s a ground and basement flat, but internally levels may become an issue, as the main staircase from ground to basement has 14 steps. The access at the front of the building involves 6 steps up, or 6 steps down.

“Churches within easy reach: St Paul’s (2-man Forster and Andrews, recently restored); Christ Church, Union Grove, which I’ve not played (2-man Lewis pipework); St Peter’s, Clapham Manor Street (3-man Hunter; my favourite locally); and many other venues, in Hunter territory.

“So after lunch the group could either stroll along to one, and play their favourite pieces. Or just stay and enjoy the flowers!”

I’ll let those going know about what they need to bring (own food, etc.) in good time. Please note this in your diary. Here are the two photos of Tim’s garden:

Next year:

Among other plans, please note these two:

Saturday, January 15th:  Anna Lapwood, who is highly regarded as an organist, broadcaster, conductor and encourager of young players, will be with us. All this, in her mid-twenties! The full details of the day are being worked out. Do see here website.

April 1st to 5th:  We still have one or two places for the visit to the Netherlands. Let me know if you would like your name to be added. I can resend information if it’s wanted.

Other news and links:

From Robert Bowles:  I have some positive news – there will shortly be a vacancy for an Organ Scholar at Church of the Holy Spirit in Narbonne Avenue  Clapham – see details here.

From Bridget West:  Here are some links to recent Church Times articles that may be of interest to SSLSO members. If you are not a subscriber, you can view for free up to five articles a month. You can purchase a full sub (paper and online) or online only; email There’s a lot of online events taking place, also; so, as a subscriber, you’ll be notified about these, too.

  1.  Latest government guidance on choirs
  2.  Cathedral Music Trust grants
  3.  RSCM/Church Times webinar
  4.  Obituary for Richard Lloyd, who died on 24 April, aged 87
  5.  Evensong

Recitals at St. John’s, East Dulwich

The next one will be on June 19th; here’s the poster.

This is the programme:

  • Toccata Psalm 146 Jan Zwart (1877-1937)
  • Consolation in D flat, S.172 Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
  • Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 654 Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
  • Suite Carmelite Jean Françaix (1912-1997)
    • I. Sœur Blanche
    • II. Mère Marie de l’incarnation
    • III. Sœur Anne de la Croix
    • IV. Sœur Constance
    • V. Sœur Mathilde
    • VI. Mère Marie de Saint-Augustin
  • Chant de Paix Jean Langlais (1907-1991)
  • Toccata (Symphony No 5, Op. 42/1) Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937).

Some of our members are playing later in the year; here is the list:

  • June 19th – Marcus Wibberley (South London)
  • July 10th – Bridget West (South London)
  • September 18th – Michael Overbury (Newark, Nottinghamshire)
  • October 9th – Michel Szostak (Poland)
  • November 6th – Paul Gobey (Rotherhithe)

Something lighter:

1. How pianists (and organists) dry their socks

2. Organ described (thanks to Reg Boulton)

Good wishes to all; he next newsletter will be on or about July 3rd.

Best Wishes,