The church organ and me!
Colin at the console of Peterborough Cathedral 2010 before playing for Evensong for a visiting choir.
I have spent most of my life playing the organ. This page is a potted history of that pursuit. I will add to it as I remember things. Whilst it is a roughly chronological account there will be some overlap especially when I was associated with more than one instrument at once as I was in my youth.
This page was last updated on 10/12/2013
files of me
Piece Heroique - Franck
Ferrers (1985, 2 mans)
Final, Triptyque - Langlais
Meditation - Ashworth
Set 2 No.3 - Howells
(1989, 3 mans)
Sonata on the 94th Psalm - Reubke
|Videos of me aged 50+|
Navigation for this page
|Higham Ferrers||Burton Latimer|
The point of starting with this section is not to impress those who stumble across this page but to give a time scale of my progress on the organ and say where I have been organist. It will also help me get a few details straight as I type what follows.
|Subject||Result||Board||I was organist at:|
|1968 10||December||3 MP||Piano||1st Class||LCM||-|
|1971 13||April||4 KSP||Piano||Merit||AB||-|
|1971 13||June||4 KSP||Theory||Pass||AB||-|
|1971 13||November||5 KSP||Theory||[Pass]||AB||-|
|1972 14||March||4 LM||Organ||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1972 14||March||5 KSP||Piano||[Pass]||AB||Fletton|
|1972 14||December||6 LM||Organ||Pass||AB||Fletton|
|1973 15||June||6 KSP||Theory||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1973 15||June||6 KSP||Piano||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1974 16||February||7 KSP||Theory||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1974 16||March||7 KSP||Piano||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1974 16||March||7 ARN||Organ||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1974 16||December||8 ARN||Organ||Distinction||AB||Fletton|
|1975 17||June||8 KSP||Piano||Distinction||AB||Woodston|
|1975 17||June||8 KSP||Theory||Distinction||AB||Woodston|
|1976 18||January||ARCO ARN||Organ||Pass||RCO||Woodston|
|1978 20||July||ALCM CJA||Organ||Pass||LCM||St. Pauls, Clifton|
|1980 21||January||FRCO CJA*||Organ||Pass||RCO||St. Pauls, Clifton|
|1985 26||July||FLCM CJA||Organ||Pass||LCM||Higham Ferrers|
|1989 30||No further qualifications gained whilst at subsequent churches||Burton Latimer|
MP = Mrs Phillips,
KSP = King's School Peterborough, LM = Lionel Morse,
In my time as a probationer chorister (1967) I used to attend Evensong at Peterborough cathedral and I loved the sound of the organ. If I sat in the North stalls the woodwork would vibrate in sympathy with one of the deep pedal notes (even without the 32'). I noted that when the chord was released at the end of the improvisation to play the choir in, the pedal note was the last to stop sounding. I would wait throughout the service to see if Barry Ferguson would play Widor's "Toccata" but I think I only ever heard him play it once! When I became a chorister I admit I listened as much to the choices of stops Barry used during the psalms as to the other side during antiphonal singing.
My harmonium and Werrington
My interest in the organ was generally well known and my father bought me a harmonium when I was a chorister. I used to buy copies of all the canticles and anthems we performed and try to play them whilst I pumped away with my feet; I think this is why I am quite a good sight-reader. My aunt, Lois Chapman, would arrange for me to play the organ in Werrington church whenever I went to stay with her. They had removed the pipe organ there so I was lucky enough to be able to play the new electronic organ which had a nice touch and, to my young ears, a great sound. I wonder what I would think of it today! When I played for Lois' funeral in the 1993 they had replaced it with a different one and they had had another in between. Some things are not built to last.
London Road Methodist Church, Peterborough
Mrs. Phillips, my first piano teacher after aunty Lois, happened to be organist at London Road Methodist church [see below] and I was allowed to go in and play this organ - by myself - during the school holidays. The church was demolished and rebuilt many years ago [it is not known what happened to the organ] but I had a long association with the organ and played for services there before I was organist at Fletton itself; I also played for a wedding of friends of my parents (when I had improved a bit!). My photo of the console of the Methodist organ is shown below. [Click for a larger image]
London Road Methodist Church, Peterborough.
|I cannot recall the
specification [and I cannot find it on the NPOR
site] but it
was something like this (Names I have forgotten are 'xxx')
Swell xxx 8, xxx 8,
Violin Diapason 8,
Other images of London Road
Methodist Church Organ
 The pipes  The console from the Treble
Early Lessons and St. John's Peterborough [NPOR]
In 1971 I left the cathedral choir and wanted to take up the organ. Barry Ferguson was about to leave Peterborough for Wimborne so did not want to take me on, obviously. My father knew somebody who played at St. John's Peterborough and he suggested I might try their new organist Lionel Morse. Lionel encouraged me a great deal and eventually took me through Grades 4 and 6. Looking at the dates of these exams, and noting that I missed out Grade 5, it is not surprising that I only just passed Grade 6. I recently looked at the marksheet and saw that I either had to do (or stupidly opted for) keyboard harmony instead of aural (which I was good at).
Anyway, my routine used to be to have a lesson on a Thursday evening and do an hour of practice on a Saturday morning. Every month Mr. Bateman, the verger, would bill me for this. He was a rather old gentleman who, I feel, did not like young boys making a noise. He taught me a valuable lesson once when he came to the console and 'asked' me to play more quietly. "It goes right through you", he said. Ever since then I have been reluctant to use full organ even in services and I think, if I have any sensitivity as a player at all, it is because he alerted me to the fact that organs can be loud beasts.
On Sundays I would then go and turn pages at the console learning as I watched. I used to have kittens if Lionel transposed a hymn, thinking he would go wrong any minute; I did not know that transposition was an important organists' skill. Lionel eventually made sure I had a church key and that I could go in after school. [I hated staying after my organ lesson when it was dark and the church creaked.] For a boy so young to have a church key was a great responsibility which church insurance companies would not perhaps deem appropriate these days. The Harrison at St. John's had great power as I have said and, although a little sluggish was a great organ to play. As with all organs in the last century, it had a limited number of registration aids.
My father was proud of me playing at St. John's and asked the local paper to do a story about me. They never did so although I was often featured in the paper at other times if I passed an exam. This occured, for example, when I won the Sheila Mossman memorial prize for Grade 6 piano and (later) I gained my ARCO whilst still at school. Anyway, in preparation of the fact that they might do a story a photographer did come and take some pictures of me at the console. Here is one of them with some other picture of the organ. See NPOR and the church website for a more modern picture - there are more pistons. [Click for a larger image] More about my links with St. John's HERE.
St. Margaret's Fletton [NPOR]
Lionel Morse resigned his post at St. John's and tried to book churches where he could teach me. He lived in Wisbech so this was a strain for him. We had lessons at London Road, and at St, Jude's (which had a Compton Electronic which Lionel liked) and eventually at Fletton. This came about because I was asked to play for a service there; I must have made an impression because Rev. Jamal asked me to become organist there. I was paid £18.25 a quarter or £73 a year. Weddings and funerals were £2.00 each. I thought I was rich! Eventually, in about 1973, Lionel decided he could not keep coming over to teach me; he gave a couple of lessons notice (2 months?). I did a very naughty thing. I immediately went to Andrew Newberry and asked him for lessons so I had 2 teachers for a very short time. I don't think I consulted my parents. My Fletton fees used to pay for the lessons but I've forgotten exactly what Andrew charged.
Andrew made it clear that one hour a week was not enough practice so I started going in after school. I did some of my best work at Fletton although it was a small instrument. I know it was there I learnt Franck's 3rd Choral in A minor and his "Piece Heroique" which I played in Peterborough Cathedral and for my Organ Scholarship audition at Bristol as well as on many other occasions. I did my Grade 7 work on that organ because I bought a cassette radio/recorder from Woolworths and used to record myself (they are very poor quality tapes). Rheinberger's A flat Sonata (1st movement) was one of my Grade 7 pieces and I certainly recorded it at Fletton.
|This picture is of the Fletton organ after it had been moved to the North aisle and faced North. When I was organist in the early 1970s it was in the North aisle but at the East end and it faced East. There was also a screen to hide the organist. It was moved in the early 1980's and restored. I know this because I gave a recital in the Peterborough Cathedral organ week in 1981 and had my picture for the programme taken at the console. Not long after that [but I need to check the date] there was a case of arson in the church; the flames and a great deal of smoke damage nearly wrote the organ off. However it was rebuilt by Hall's of Cambridge and the pedal rank was extended from just the 16' to include 8', 4' and an acoustic 32'. These were added as tabs over the swell as I recall.|
St. Augustine's Woodston [NPOR]
After a number of years at Fletton I heard that the organist of Woodston was leaving and I volunteered my services. For a while I was organist at both churches and could just manage to cycle from Fletton to Woodston in time for the 11.00 service. It was just that Woodston paid better fees. In some ways the organ was not as good; the swell was pretty boring and the Trumpet practically unusable. There was a celeste stop, however, which I had not had at Fletton. The Great was a pretty standard 8, 8, 8, 4, 2 but the 2' was right in front of the player. The tuners (Johnson's of Cambridge) had overhauled the organ some years earlier and had stuck a board in front of the 2' which the previous organist kept taking out. The Swell to Great coupler made the action heavy and I used it sparingly. I always felt the stool was too low but I seemed to manage.
|Part of the
attraction of Woodston was that I went there to bell ring on a
Monday night. I was also able to ring for Evensong at St.
John's in Peterborough and cycle back to Woodston in time to
play for Evensong, although there was ringing at Woodston, my
girlfriend, Anne, rang at St. John's in Peterborough City Centre and the attraction of the place
needs no further explanation! I also rang quite a
few quarter peals at St. John's for Evensong.
At Woodston I worked for my A.R.C.O. (and passed). I also managed to play Jongen's "Toccata" which was one of Andrew Newberry's main pieces at the time [Hear a short excerpt of him playing it]. Anne turned pages for me for this but I have not played it since! I keep trying to revise it; in my teens I may not have been so fussy about incorrect rhythms but I did make a fair stab at it.
The second photo on the left was taken to go with the press report of my diploma success; note the glasses.
I also prepared for the organ scholarship at Bristol on this organ which I was awarded. So in, 1977 off I went to St. Pauls, Clifton. However, before I get on to that I need to mention Peterborough Cathedral.
Peterborough Cathedral [NPOR]
I first went up to the cathedral organ loft as a chorister when Barry Ferguson wanted a page turner. I really had no idea what I was doing and I was rather small. Stanley Vann expected boys to 'relay the beat' because cameras and monitors were unheard of. Barry taught me how to do it as best he could but, as I recall, I spent most of the service looking at the stop names. I was dead impressed that there was a Dulcet stop because I had one of those on my harmonium! As I have explained, Barry left Peterborough before I took up the organ and it was some time before I visited the console again.
I was extremely lucky to have been taught by Andrew Newberry after Lionel Morse. Without realising it, Andrew had a teaching technique which suited my personality. He taught on a 2 manual unit organ which was in the Song School, or Becket's Chapel; it is now a refectory (part of the cathedral shop) and the organ has gone to Polebrook according to the NPOR; the Song School NPOR page is here.
The Old Song School at Peterborough (Becket's Chapel)
He told me that Lionel had given me a good pedal technique. My main problem was that I tended to rush; this is something I have fought against through most of my career and is a sign of anxiety. Many players realise it can be a problem and I have heard all sorts of noises [hisses and grunts] from organists for whom I have turned pages to help them keep time. With Andrew I passed Grades 7, 8 and my ARCO. I took my Grade 7 organ a couple of days before my Grade 7 piano; Christopher Dearnley examined me for both instruments. I have said a little about Andrew under the Fletton and Woodston sections but I have added a section about him HERE.
At about this time I was doing a lot of organ playing and was keen to try as many instruments as possible. Of those I used to play - and I photographed - was Wentworth Street Methodist Church [NPOR] in Peterborough, now no longer there. It was one of two Compton extension organs in the town, [the other being at St. Mary's which has since been incorporated into the new organ in the new church.]
Another organ I played and photographed was that in the Catholic church in Park Road, where I gave a short recital after the organ had been cleaned. It wasn't a great instrument but I was glad to have the experience. The NPOR page is HERE
My recital experience grew because Andrew was pro-active in getting me to play in public. At St. John's Peterborough the vicar (Canon Howitt) was keen that there should be a series of lunchtime recitals; having started organ lessons there I knew the church well especially as I used to bell ring there a lot. People could come in and get a cheese sandwich and a hot drink as I recall. I gave several recitals there but I have not kept any details.
Andrew also arranged a composite recital at Peterborough Cathedral for all his pupils. My 2 pieces were "Piece Heroique" by Franck and "Joie et Clarté des Corps Glorieux" by Messiaen. We were pictured by the local press after the recital, or before it - I forget which. I cringe when I look at this photo; what a sad bunch of teenagers we looked. Well perhaps not, but fashions change and ... well make your own mind up. [Click for a larger image]
David Whittle, Roger Williams, me, Arnold Wills,
Christopher Clifton and Andrew Newberry on the stairs
up to the old console at Peterborough Cathedral in, what, 1975?
In my youth the organ had yet to be rebuilt; I spent many, many hours in the organ loft. I started going to watch/turn for Harold Clark at the 6.30pm service which was sung by the voluntary choir. Harold explained various things about the organ such as what the Unison Off did and what a mixture was. He also showed me the Harmonic Clarabella on the Great. When the stop was pulled there was a fault by way of a high pitched click from the mechanism up amongst the pipes. Harold used use this to add the odd Full Stop in sermons, a bit like Victor Borge.
Once I was a pupil of Andrew's I attended 5.30 Evensong almost every day (this was a 3.00pm service at weekends). On reflection I think he was glad of the company as he used to chat quite a lot. Being an inexperienced and shy teenager I was fairly mono-syllabic but I have very fond memories of those years. Organists these days do not appreciate that Peterborough had few playing aids compared to today and the pistons were not adjustable save for 1 per department. I mainly had to pull out the Swell 4' Clarion or the Pedal Ophicleide in loud music as these were not on Andrew's pistons. See a note about Andrew's improvisation here.
I also turned for broadcast Choral Evensong on the BBC and for BBC recordings of Andrew. He was understandably nervous but both he and I knew that he had done the necessary work and that it would all go well. I perfected my score reading in the organ loft. I found it easier to follow the pedal part when turning pages. I always made sure I did not turn 2 pages at once by adding 2 to the current right hand page number and checking that this was the next RH page before I turned. Here are some snaps of the old console. Note the piston setter buttons on the left just under the volt meter, these allowed a single 'Adj' piston to be set.
|On the left is a picture of me at the cathedral console just after having given a lunchtime recital in the Organ Week following the rebuild in 1981. Note that the panel where the voltmeter was has been replaced by some stops. I think these may have been the pedal reeds (those duplicated on manuals and the single stop at the bottom may be Great & Pedal Piston coupled; to be honest I forget. I do recall that swell stops were moved to the outer left hand jamb and the pedal department was moved to the middle left section of three.|
My association with the cathedral continued for many years and, having graduated in 1980, I was briefly 'appointed' Assistant Organist there to help Christopher Gower. Basically Andrew had left to go to Wolverhampton and Simon Lawford had not been appointed. Christopher was away doing associated Board examinations so I had to hold the fort; it was a tremendous opportunity but one for which I felt ready having been organ scholar at Bristol. The only downside was that the pipe organ was still being rebuilt (as I've said above it came back into use in 1981) and there was an Allen computer organ to accompany the services. This was nowhere as good as the one they used when the organ was rebuilt again after the fire and was not, in my opinion, exactly 'state-of-the-art' even for the 1980's. The advantage was that the console was near the choir so I could hear what was going on. It also meant I was in full view when I played for the annual huge St. Peter's Day service! Here are some snaps of me at this console after a Sunday morning Matins, probably getting ready for Evensong. (Oh, it's my FRCO hood)
Colin Ashworth at the Allen computer organ in Peterborough 1980
St. Paul's Clifton - the Bristol University Organ Scholarship
I did my 'A' levels in 1976 and took a not very productive gap year to catch up with myself - I had taken the 11+ exam at age 10 and have never really fitted in with the age group of the pupils I'd been to school with. I went for the Organ Scholarship trials at Cambridge, Oxford and Bristol (having also tried for Cambridge a year earlier as a 'dry-run', an experience which did nothing for my confidence - I have to say - and which was the cause of a fall-out between me and my school music teacher). I didn't like either the students or the staff at Oxford or Cambridge but the people at Bristol were warm and friendly. I played "Piece Heroique" by Franck for my audition and had to conduct the choir in a short rehearsal. David Drinkell was one of the basses in the ad hoc choir and we are still in touch.
The organ at St. Paul's was a 2-manual rebuilt only recently (when I applied) by Percy Daniels. It had all the playing aids I thought I wanted but not the best tone; the action had to be attended to during my time there. It coped with most repertoire (both organ and choral) and allowed me to practise the kinds of voluntaries I liked to play. These included a lot of Howells, Franck and Buxtehude. I was never a great Bach exponent. Listen to an extract from Howells' Psalm Prelude Set 2 No 3 played after the Memorial Service to W. K. Stanton held at St. Paul's in about 1980. (This recording was transferred from a reel to reel machine)
While I was at Bristol I first had organ lessons from David Pettit at Clifton College where I was taught on the 4 manual Harrison only recently rebuilt then. Later I was taught - and taken to FRCO standard - by Glyn Jenkins who taught me on the Nicholson in the university Great Hall.
During my time in Bristol I gave at least 2 recitals in St. Paul's, one in Bristol Cathedral (before the rebuild) and two in the university Great Hall. I also played the organ in Poulenc's "Organ Concerto" in my first year.
Hear me on Bristol Cathedral organ in an extract from 'Piece Heroique' by Franck.
Kettering United Reformed Church
After Bristol I went to Reading to do my PGCE and I didn't really play the organ much. [There have been various times in my life when I have not kept my playing up to scratch and this has worried me.] But as soon as I got my first job at Westfield School in Wellingborough in 1981 I started looking for a church. Pretty soon the local paper told me that Kettering United Reformed Church wanted an organist. I enjoyed playing this 2-manual instrument and gave a recital on it so I was horrified to read in the NPOR that it has been removed - this proved to be a mistake. During my time there, they installed huge gas radiant heaters. These made a terrible noise and played havoc with the moisture in the air in the winter. As a consequence the sliders would become too difficult for the stop action to shift and the ranks sounded out of tune; it was very sad. It had all the effects I needed for the music I used to play. Swell celestes for the start of Howells' Rhapsody in D flat and, with the 16' swell flue, quite a convincing full swell.
The style of worship (hymn sandwich) was not too bad but the long evening services became a drag with their long sermons. As luck would have it Higham Ferrers was looking for an organist and I applied.
St. Mary, Higham Ferrers
I first went to the console of Higham Ferrers church as a boy; it's a long story which is not worth telling. Suffice it to say I had no idea I should eventually become organist there. On the second Sunday after my appointment in 1985 the BBC broadcast the Morning Service from Higham - what a baptism! This is especially true as the console is in an organ loft which makes communication with the choir difficult in any case. For the BBC service the choir was in the nave! For most of my time at Higham the organ was a two-manual, the 3rd having been 'prepared for'. The NPOR page shows the specification. There were only 3 pistons per manual but I soon got the hang of the console and enjoyed playing it. I tackled some pretty difficult music and prepared for my FLCM on this instrument. It could manage the 'Final' from Vierne's 1st Symphony and Mozart's 'Fantasia K.608'. The most useful feature was the presence of separate Swell Octave and Swell Sub Octave to Great couplers as well as the normal Swell to Great; these gave quite a bit of flexibility. Full swell wasn't bad as there was a 16' Contra Oboe and, during services with large congregations I was glad of the Large Open Diapason on the Great as well as the Small one. I really enjoyed being able to tackle cathedral style repertoire and accompany in the way I had been taught by Andrew Newberry. I gave at least 2 recitals on the instrument. See Video below
In 1988 the organ was given an overhaul and a new 3rd manual by Norman Halls of Cambridge. The work is documented on the church website (as at December 2007 though it may be removed) and the NPOR page is HERE. Some aspects of the organ design were decided by Charles Hall and myself. I do regret selecting the type of rocker tablets which were installed; I chose them because they were the nearest to the style that had been in place, but they kept coming off. However, I did insist that the Large Open Diapason was kept and that the Dulciana was put on the new Choir/Positiv. I also asked for an Super Octave on the Choir and suggested a Nazard on the Choir. As there was already to be a new Twelfth on the Great, Charles suggested we add a Larigot to the Choir instead. On returning to the organ a few years after I had left Higham I felt we had made most of the right decisions, although it did miss 16' tone on the Great which I become used to at All Hallows. I found out today (28th May 2008, that the Higham organ is to be removed and a new one installed built by Peter Collins).
I gave a recital on the organ shortly before I left Higham which included Reubke's "Sonata on the 94th Psalm". To be honest the last two pages were bit rough so I went in and recorded them again the next day. This recital was to be one of the major peaks of my organ playing career. A short extract from the Reubke which was recorded on a domestic cassette recorder can be heard HERE [989KB]. I have not played the piece since then as it is not really an Evensong or Eucharistic voluntary.
Burton Latimer [NPOR]
I became organist at Burton Latimer very gradually. After Higham I had not wanted to be tied down to a church and thought I could become 'freelance'. This never really worked so I eventually agreed to play at Burton. This meant - again - I could fit in some bell ringing and Sue and Jenny could come to church with me. The organ was rather sluggish and tonally not very exciting; I had lost the will to practise and I just went through the motions of being an organist. Although it was not the fault of Burton Latimer in any way, this period of my life was the least rewarding on the organ although the choir did do some exciting things now and again. Eventually, I had had enough and I resigned.
All Hallows, Wellingborough [NPOR]
I had known the deputy organist at All Hallows for a while and knew he wanted an assistant organist. So, when I was approached, in 1994, to give a recital in Wittlich in Germany (Wellingborough's Twin Town) I knew I needed an organ to practise on. I had intended to be a deputy in return for use of the organ. Instead as the deputy did not want to play every week I was actually appointed organist.
The 3-manual in All Hallows was a nice instrument to play. The console was close to the choir and close to the pipes but not too close. It had celestes on both swell and choir and a pedal trombone. It also had a Keraulophon which I had not met since Peterborough Cathedral although it was removed in 1981 from the cathedral swell. Sadly I have no recordings of me playing at Wellingborough.
You can hear some of the quiet stops on Rothwell organ HERE
The NPOR page is HERE and my own page about Rothwell organ is HERE. This will take you to some pictures of the instrument, but on the left is another for your amusement! I began my association with Rothwell as a ringer and stayed for services; they had a good organist, Richard Haynes, who sadly died unexpectedly. I was approached to see if I would be interested in the post having played for a few services as a deputy. Having written about Rothwell HERE I do not need to duplicate what I have said. It remains a fine instrument, tonally, but is quite hard to play both from the point of view of the physical effort involved and the lack of registration aids. In a way, however, the lack of pistons means one uses simple registrations and these are usually the best. The organ was rebuilt in 2012-2013. I have not seen it yet.
Since September 2005 I have presided over the one-manual organ in Maidwell church, Northamptonshire; I therefore have little incentive to practise and there are other reasons why I do not have the fire in my belly to practise the organ. For one thing, as Andrew Newberry observed, once past 50 it is a surprise anyone is interested in one's playing [now there are numerous examples to the contrary of over 50 players and indeed Andrew was sought by a choir as you can read in the appreciation]. What he meant was that there are so many young organists coming along who all play so well; they have been 'brought up' differently with new gadgets on consoles, a fresh view of improvisation as an even more major aspect of the organist's skill (than it was in my youth), and plenty of role models to aspire to via Youtube. I was good in my day, but I fear my day has passed. Moreover, everyday I do not practise is about a week of 'real time'. That is to say, the effects of not playing regularly and tackling new material have a very deliterious effect on one's technique. As for complex pedal solos - well, I am not as fit as I once was.
I have taken up the clarinet instead and I passed my Grade 5 in May 2013 having begun the day after my 52nd birthday in 2010 (i.e. I started on 8th November 2010)
There are no videos of me playing the organ in my prime. Those I have posted are truly shameful but to save you searching, here they are.
http://youtu.be/dQMtWjtJSkU Trumpet Voluntary played at Woodnewton
http://youtu.be/HzBQhcnDx0M A 'doodle' at Woodnewton
http://youtu.be/0PhHAgMFUq4 Lullaby - Paul Edwards played at Bilton near Rugby
http://youtu.be/qstEOkbh7b4 Liebster Jesu at St. Peter's Rugby
http://youtu.be/K_ZdAfq3iYg Monologue in C (Rheinberger) at St. Peter's Rugby
And finally, Toccata by Whitlock played on the old organ (pre rebuild!) at Higham Ferrers
Read an appreciation here
You will probably get the impression from this page that Andrew played a very important part in my life. In fact I would go so far as to say that he changed it. He took me through the upper grades on the organ and through ARCO and I was able to watch him in action nearly every day for a period of about six years. He also got my my first recital booking at St. Martin's in Stamford. The organ had just been overhauled so it was rewarding to play.
Here are a few random memories of Andrew.
Miscellaneous: He played the organ in a pair of slip-on suede Hush Puppies which had a hole above one of the toes. (I forget which)
Voluntaries: He once played the Dupré "Prelude and Fugue in G minor" as a voluntary after Evensong but halfway through the Fugue he suddenly improvised an ending and flung the book down the organ loft stairs. He was a perfectionist and had, that day, been to collect his ADCM. Clearly tired after his journey (and, as he said, having drunk sherry - a tipple he liked) his head was not clear.
Andrew played a lot of Howells, the Psalm Preludes and the D flat major and C# minor Rhapsodies. His party piece of Bach was the C major Prelude and Fugue although he trotted out the F minor at recitals. I never saw him play Vierne's "Carillon de Westminster" but is was another recital piece. However, the "Final" from Vierne's 1st symphony and Flor Peeters' "Concert Piece" were favourites of his. He also introduced me to "Triptyque" by Langlais and the major works of Franck; of course there were may other pieces too numerous to mention. ["Dankpsalm" by Reger, and the "Postlude" from the Glagolitic Mass by Janáček]
Psalms: To watch Andrew accompany the psalms was a delight. He had complete control of the Cathedral Organ when it had precious few playing aids. Every manual was used particularly the old Choir which only had 4 pistons (+ a 5th Adjuster). Choir 3 brought on 16', 8' and 2' but with the Unison off and Octave giving an 8', 4' & 1' effect. Choir 4 was a mini 'Full Swell' Effect with the 16' Contra Fagotto, the 8' Trompette, the Dulciana Mixture and, I think, the Octave coupler too. On the Solo he had one setting he liked which was the 16' Quintaton plus both the Violoncello 8' & Viole d'Orchestre 8'. He would play the left hand down an octave and right hand up an octave for variety on this setting which had some 12th in it thanks to the Quintaton.
During the psalms Andrew was a master at what I guess many organist then did (and still do) which meant that he didn't simply play the chant. He could invert the harmony or add a descant by rearranging the parts off the cuff; something I have never been brave enough to try.
Improvisation: Although Andrew was not the greatest improviser in the world on one level, I naturally enjoyed what he played. It was a typical 'cathedral-style' build up to play the choir in and out. On Sunday afternoons the Introit used to be sung from the Eastern Building (where the glorious fan-vaulting is) and the choir would have a long procession. Almost always, he started on the Solo Unda Maris and built up from there. He had a few formulae which cropped up in every improvisation and which I learnt off by heart. Both were modal in flavour, the second being a modal cadence which I still use!
More memories as I recall them...
A note about the photographs and sound files on this page
In my teens I liked to take photographs of organs (although my camera was pretty poor by today's standards). The photos on this site were taken by me unless otherwise stated. Click on any thumbnail for a larger image. It is a great regret that only a small number of photographs of me at an organ console actually exist but I do have a good collection of recordings of recitals.
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