This year has seen a range of activities featuring many different instruments and styles so indicative of the versatility of our chosen instrument. It is interesting to note the predominance of large organs which are so much a part of our recent heritage of technological development since the mid- Victorian era. But there are many small and chamber organs, some with only a single manual (as is the one I play regularly at the Bishop’s Chapel) and these challenge our musical ingenuity to play repertoire that works well making the best of restricted resources.
The years programme of events has included visits to four Clifton organs – All Saints, Clifton Cathedral, Clifton College Chapel, and Christ Church. Crediton Parish Church with its 3 manual 1921 vintage Harrison & Harrison organ, renovated in 2001 by Michael Farley, and the large 4-manual Hauptwerk instrument at Nichols Nymet House. A minibus trip to the Royal Albert Hall for “A Grand Organ Celebration” at which the truly mighty organ was most ably demonstrated in all its colours and splendour by Wayne Marshall, Olivier Latry, and David Briggs. The recitals at North Petherton with Andrew Hinckley, including one played by Miles Quick, were also supported. On the support for aspiring organists front we have had events at Lufton with Francis Burroughes, Mark with Derek Jones, and we supported an event with the RSCM at St Johns Taunton with Rosemary Field. Following on from his fascinating talk at last years AGM, Andrew Carter gave a mini recital and illustrated talk on European organs at West Huntspill. Sadly the social coffee morning at Hilary’s was cancelled due to lack of support. I myself have not been able to support all these events as I would have liked due to a major health issue but I hope to be fully recovered by next spring.
St Mary’s Church Bridgwater was packed on the 24th of July, at the memorial service for Andrew Morton. The service included a tribute by Robert Bolland, with music played by Doug Smith and John Bodiley. The service was accompanied by Miles Quick with a choir, conducted by John Bodiley, of some 40 members made up from groups of singers with whom Andrew was associated. SOCA has reason to be grateful to Andrew for all that he did while he held the post of secretary. We will miss him, but will be grateful for his friendship over many years, and count it a privilege to have known him.
Much preparatory work has been done by our sub-committee on the proposed Somerset Organists Support Scheme and publicity leaflet. This will be an important part of our future development and is on the agenda both today and at future committee meetings. We all need to make an effort with this. We are a small society in a very large rural area which does not have the advantage of big and concentrated populations which our neighbours in Exeter and Bristol have. Unless we increase our membership considerably there is a real possibility that SOCA could cease to exist. As part of our plan for the future we are considering restructuring the way we manage the association. More of this is on today’s agenda later.
A lot has been said in the media about the demise of music in our schools. Whilst this is a concern, it is also an opportunity for some schools where the management have an enthusiasm for, and recognition of, the value of music across the whole spectrum, to develop a reputation for specialism. Many teachers are now being forced to teach four subjects in order to keep their jobs and some are managing to still achieve excellent results. All young people have individual talents and the opportunity must be there for all of them. A policy of “one size fits all” is not good enough. Someone said to me a while back that, in order to provide organists for the future, we must encourage young people to go to Choral Evensong. I disagree. Even I find some Choral Evensongs exceedingly boring! Back in June I played for the young school leavers “Pilgrim Days” in the Cathedral. I concluded with playing the Star Wars music, opening with the Solo Tuba and featuring the Great reeds alongside full organ. At all nine events a photo of me at the console was projected on a large screen and I got a standing ovation and rapturous applause from the young people and their teachers. This attracted the attention of the Dean and the Cathedral Administrator who came to hear it. As a result I have been asked to take the organ to schools featuring music known to them such as Star Wars, Jurassic Park, and Harry Potter. Due to my heart attack I haven’t developed this as much as I would have liked yet, but it is very much part of my agenda in the next twelve months, with a further nine young people’s Pilgrim Days already in the diary for 2019. We need to show that organs (and organists) are not just old fashioned, boring and out of date, but that we can adapt and work alongside contemporary repertoire as well as that of the past 500 years and make people go WOW, stand up and become enthusiastic about the King of Instruments!
I must close with thanking all the members of the committee for their support and contributions to the associations business. Without their enthusiasm none of our activities could have taken place. Especial mention here though must go to Derek for his constant contributions as our secretary, which is a much bigger responsibility than I think he realised when he volunteered to take the job! Also to Miles for looking after our website. And not forgetting Doug for managing to keep track of our day to day finances.
SOCA belongs to all our members out there every day in Somerset. It is up to all of us to promote the Association and gain as many new members as we can. Membership is slowly decreasing at the moment and we must not risk losing the opportunities for socialising and educating that we enjoy. Spread the word!