Saturday 29th September 2018
Shortly after 10.00 organists began to gather outside an unassuming building in Albion Road, Rotherhithe. Located within is the Finnish Church, built in 1958 complete with its Marcussen organ (also 1958), the first in the UK. Although only one manual with pedals it is in a wonderful position and the volume of sound is suitable for the size of building and its congregation. Our host for the day, Paul Gobey, gave us a brief talk and then proceeded to demonstrate the organ. Those of us who played chose suitable repertoire including Sweelinck, Pachelbel, Buxtehude and Bach. Some beautiful sounds emerged although I think we were all agreed that the (very powerful) mixture needed to be used sparingly.
A very short walk along Albion Road took us to St Olav’s, the Norwegian church, where Paul has been the organist for many years. The two manual and pedal Willis organ was much more familiar and a complete contrast to the Marcussen. Paul explained that the organ was much older than the church and had come from a church in Essex. Arguments still rage about whether the builder was ‘Father’ Willis or Willis II but, in any case, it was greatly altered by Hill, Norman and Beard. We also had lunch at St Olav’s in the magnificent reading room. Our hosts had provided a substantial amount of lasagne and salad. Fortunately the number of attendees ensured that we managed to consume a respectable amount.
Another short walk took us to the historic church of St Mary with its important Byfield organ of 1765. We were greeted by the Vicar who gave a very entertaining and informative talk about the history of the church and the area. Paul Gobey then gave us a potted history of the organ and the various works that have been carried out. By this time Marilyn Harper had joined us and she then demonstrated the organ for us. We were all grateful that she stayed in the organ loft to assist the rest of us. Not surprisingly many of us chose English cornet voluntaries which, of course, sounded wonderful. We also were treated to a beautiful performance of Buxtehude’s passacaglia in d minor given by Bridget West. Alan Saggerson managed to find a voluntary by William Croft where he was able to use the Cremona and the Oboe.
There was a particularly good turnout for this event and thanks must go to Paul Gobey for organising the whole day, to the clergy and to all those who made us so welcome.
Andrew Chadney – Chair
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Photos by John Mitchell