Southwark and South London Society of Organists Newsletter March 9th, 2022

Welcome to this edition of the newsletter of the Southwark and South London Society of Organists, from the John Webber, Chair of the Society.

Membership News

Marilyn Nicholson, for many years organist at our popular meeting venue Penge Congregational Church, moved on 16th February to Glasgow to be near her family. This had long been planned, but was delayed by Covid for a couple of years. We have wonderful memories of Marilyn hosting our annual composite recitals in February and we wish her well up north.

James Carpenter: although I have known James for many years, I couldn’t put it better than Christopher Town did recently in the Bromley and Croydon’s newsletter: “Many congratulations to James Carpenter, Organist of Beckenham Baptist Church, on becoming an FRCO! This really is quite an achievement as it is about thirty years since he passed his ARCO and he currently has a very demanding career as Professor of Medical Statistics at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.

“James began serious work for the FRCO in 2017 with encouragement from Catherine Ennis who taught him until lockdown. Since then Stephen Farr, Margaret Phillips, Frederick Stocken, Robin Harrison and Ian Curror have all featured in his preparation. He actually recorded his diploma pieces on the Mander organ in St Michael’s Beckenham – a lovely organ well known to many of us.”

Nehara Fernando has joined the Society. She is thirteen and has been studying piano with me for some years and soon to take ABRSM Grade 6. Since September Nehara has also been learning the organ and she took part in the event in Penge.

Brian Parsons: Brian has also joined SSLSO. He is Director of Music at the Church of the Ascension, Lavender Hill, in S W London.

Recent events

Composite Recital in Penge on February 19th. – twelve members contributed to this recital and we have a good write up of the event here. Well done to all the performers, who set a high standard, and thanks to Richard Pilliner for the introductions between pieces and to Revd. Pam Owen for the use of the Church and for her presence to look after the sound system. It was good to see other keen musical members of the Church with us, too.

Forthcoming events

This coming Monday, March 14th, we shall have our Annual Meeting at St. Stephen’s Church, Norbury and Thornton Heath, 9 Warwick Road, CR7 7NH. We’ll start with a couple of organ pieces by our Secretary and former Chair of SSLSO, Andrew Chadney, who is organist at St. Stephen’s Church. Then we shall have the AGM. We shall be saying “farewell” to Bridget West, Richard Pilliner and Robert Bowles from the Committee; Irene Wolstenholme and Martin Callingham are willing to stand and be elected; there is space for one more, so please let me know if you are interested. Irene has been our Independent Examiner, but said James Carpenter is prepared to step in.

The AGM will be followed by a talk by Barry Williams, our guest speaker, who says: “I had it in mind to talk about the Revised Guidance from the Legal Office of General Synod concerning parish musicians, explaining its origin and status. We can then move on to some recent cases that have gone to hearings and the way in which the Employment Tribunal tends to view matters. I ought to make some reference to contracts and income tax.” There will be time for questions.

Saturday, May 7th. – 2.30p.m. Richard Pilliner will lead a session on repertoire at St. John’s Church, East Dulwich Road, SE22 9AT. There is a fine three manual tracker action Walker organ of 1985 installed. More to come on this. there will be plenty of space for observers. This is quite soon, so please get thinking what you might play!

Saturday, June 11th. – visit to St. Mary’s, Merton, St. Mary’s Wimbledon and Sacred Heart, Wimbledon, arranged by Peter Smith. Timing to be announced. The churches are not especially close, so car sharing may be the solution. This promises to be a great day out in an area which we don’t visit that frequently.

July or August – we aim to have a summer social.

Saturday, September 10th. at 3.00p.m: former Director of Music at Southwark Cathedral Peter Wright will lead a session on Flor Peeters at St. John’s Church Upper Norwood. Peter says:

“One idea I have had was perhaps doing a session on Flor Peeters, with whom I studied in 1973. I suspect many of the SSLSO members play something by him and I could talk a bit about his teaching (which was rooted in the Lemmens tradition but much more open to modern scholarship than other followers, like Dupre) and his close association with the music of Franck (b.1822) via his friendship and study with Tournemire. Indeed he had Franck’s Cavaille-Coll console in his music room at home, bequeathed to him by Tournemire. I could also do a master-class on his music (and/or Franck’s) if there were an appetite for that.”

Peter would love several SSLSO members to offer a piece to play; please let me know if this appeals to you – and if not, come and watch!

Saturday in October – annual dinner; venue, date and time t.b.a.

Saturday, November 19th. – a visit to two churches in Streatham: 2.30p.m. Christ Church (on the South Circular Road, A 205), then 4.00 or 4.30p.m.St. Peter’s, Leigham Court Road.

Other News

  1. From Bridget West, mention of a more important topic than some would realise: the Adjustable Benches Campaign

“I’ve been involved with this campaign. Here’s some words:

The Society of Women Organists has launched a campaign for adjustable benches to be provided at all organs in churches and public venues. This is to help individuals of all heights to be able to do their job properly; to give a voice to those who struggle to reach the pedals otherwise (women and men); and to help to facilitate low-cost solutions for replacing or altering a fixed-height bench.”

More information at, and media coverage:

  1. The IAO’s London Organ Day is now to be on June 18th, having been postponed from this March. Do keep viewing their website for more information.
  2. Alan Langridge is aware that this year sees the 50th. Penge Festival, which will be longer than previous years. The organisers would love organ music, which, I guess, will be based at the Congregational Church, with its exceptional instrument, but St. Michael’s nearby could be considered. More on this before long.
  3. I liked this “Guardian” letter from musician Meirion Bowen on February 28th: “John Dilleigh’s letter sparked a childhood memory. The organist in my local Welsh chapel was deaf. Once a man asked him to play for a funeral. ‘What music would you like at the start?’ the organist asked. ‘I often like Bach,’ was the reply. As the coffin was brought in, the organist played the Can-Can from Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld.”

Do send in clippings or e-mails for the next newsletter, which will be sent out on April 8th.

See you at the AGM!

Best wishes,