Somerset organists, (or at least, 8 of them), resumed their organ-visiting activities after a long gap, caused by Covid restrictions with a visit to St. Mary’s Church, Ilminster, a fine, Gothic structure with a tall, central tower. We were greeted and welcomed by the organist, Peter Mackay, who gave us a summary of the changes made over lockdown by Michael Farley.
The organ stands in 2 cases in the West gallery, divided either side of the West window. The console faces towards the pipes, being sited in front of the great, and alongside some pedal pipes and the newly-installed rank of trumpet pipes. There are no cases: gold-painted pipes form the surround to both groups of pipes. There are pews for a choir in the gallery, and Peter told us that with the recent resumption of singing, the choir had welcomed new members.
Little change was made to the swell organ in the recent work. The great had the addition of a couple of 8’ ranks including a Dulciana for quiet accompaniment, and a flute, to allow for a better gradation of volume. The whole organ was cleaned and overhauled.
Peter gave a short demonstration, and most of the SOCA members present took a turn, playing a variety of music. Those who had played the instrument before the recent work agreed that where before, it had been adequate, but rather insipid, it now had a greater range of tone, and the sound spread well around the building. It is now an eclectic organ, capable of giving some authenticity of sound to centuries of organ music. This had been demonstrated the week before, in a celebrity recital given by Philip Scriven, who played music by Bach, John Bull, Mozart, Brahms, Mendelssohn, Franck, Elgar, Walton and Vierne.
SOCA’s next visit is on Thursday, 7th October, to hear and play the Kenneth Tickell organ in St. Paul’s Church.