Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich
Welcome to Christ’s Chapel Dulwich. The chapel’s full title is Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift at Dulwich. Founded by Edward Alleyn, a famous Shakespearean actor and entrepreneur, it celebrates 400 years of continuous worship in 2016. Today, Edward Alleyn’s legacy consists of three top schools in Dulwich, Dulwich College, Alleyn’s School and James Allen’s Girls’ School. Other schools in and outside London also benefit from the founder’s legacy. As well as the schools there exists the charity that is the Almshouses, visible on College Road. Land and property are managed by the Dulwich Estate. The chapel is used by the schools for services at the beginnings and ends of terms. Dulwich College and JAGS occasionally join forces to sing Choral Evensong, maintaining and nurturing the tradition of sung services which began in 1616.They also give concerts, notably on Wednesday lunchtimes. Services using the Book of Common Prayer are held on Sundays on behalf of St Barnabas Church Dulwich, and these are the services for which I play the organ and direct the choir. I also organise a thriving series of organ recitals on Sunday evenings.
Although built in 1616 the interior is largely Victorian, and the reredos is particularly colourful, showing an image depicting one of the original 12 poor scholars and Edward Alleyn. Two big paintings are copies of works by Raphael, notably ‘The Transfiguration’.
The chapel is a jewel in London and Dulwich’s crown. Visitors to the Dulwich Picture Gallery, which the chapel adjoins, can walk round on Tuesday afternoons. Many say they had no idea it was here at all.
The organ was built in 1760 by George England and Thomas Wyatt. It had three manuals only, the pedal board being added by TC Lewis of Brixton in 1880. Since Mendelssohn had brought the music of Bach to London, English organs needed to catch up. In 1874 it was cleaned by Forster and Andrewes, and in 1908, Norman and Beard modified the action. Between the two world wars, the organ thankfully survived bombs that fell on Dulwich, and was cared for by a local Alleyn’s Old Boy, Arthur Coombs. He ran a grocery business but the organ was his passion. He added more ranks, including a Voix Celeste. Another example of Arthur’s work is in Penge Congregational Church, where the society likes to meet. In 1969, Alan Morgan, then Director of Music at Dulwich College, invited Manders to rebuild the organ. It became a neo Baroque instrument until 2000, when soaring temperatures caused by faulty thermostats caused the soundboards and leatherwork to dry out. William Drake was commissioned to restore the organ to the world class instrument here today. Many of the pipes are original, including the Vox Humana rank on the choir, found in bags inside the Swell Box. In 1880 it was out fashion but Lewis knew its qualities, and there it remained until 2009 when it returned, restored to its rightful place in the organ.
The National Pipe Organ register link is http://www.npor.org.uk/NPORView.html?RI=E01599
I have made a recording of the Buxtehude Choral Prelude Te Deum (Bux WV 218) Herr Gott, dich loben wir.
To hear the 16 minute recording click here
The recording was made using levels set to auto-adjust and some sections sound distant. Thank you Martin for your help in editing.
|1st May 2016||Marilyn Harper at Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich|
|1st April 2016||Sarah Best at All Saints, Poplar|
|1st March 2016||Martin Callingham St Paul’s Tooting|
|1st February 2016||Nicky Jones at St Swithun’s Hither Green|
|1st December 2015||John Webber with the Beckenham Junior Choir and Youth Voices at St John’s, East Dulwich|
|1st November 2015||Samzu Agbaje at Tulse Hill Methodist Church|
|1st October 2015||Richard Pilliner at St John the Evangelist, Shirley|
|1st September 2015||Harry Bramma at All Saints, Tooting|
|1st July 2015||John King and Chris Caine at St Clement with St Peter, Dulwich|
|1st June 2015||Robert Bowles at the Church of the Holy Spirit, Clapham|
|1st May 2015||Marilyn Nicholson at Penge Congregational Church|
|1st April 2015||Andrew Chadney at St Stephen’s, Norbury|
|1st March 2015||John Mitchell at All Saints, Warlingham|