Covid 19 update

Owing to this virus all events are suspended at the moment but we hope to keep in touch with each other online and we hope that there will also be some online provision from Somerset churches of services, helpful hymns etc.  Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible!!  Meanwhile we can hopefully enjoy personal practice time and listening to lots of inspiring recordings.  Blessings and peace to all at this challenging time.

‘Come and Play’ at St Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton

Saturday 22 February 2020  3pm – 4.30pm

There was an excellent turn out for our ‘Come and Play’ event on the newly rebuilt Willis organ which was hosted by Miles last Saturday afternoon at St Mary Magdalene church in the centre of Taunton . Miles welcomed everyone and then after giving a brief history of the church and the development of the organ started the afternoon off with a brilliant performance of the  ‘Allegro’ from Percy Whitlock’s Plymouth Suite to the delight of all those present. Others quickly followed with pieces ranging from simple hymn tunes to more complicated works by Bach, Carson, Oldroyd and Brahms.

The afternoon was in no sense a competition or recital, it was merely (to quote John Bodiley) an informal meeting with tea, cake and music. Geoff, from Michael Farley  Organ builders who had been commissioned to update the Henry Willis organ, was on hand should anything go wrong with the new instrument. Personally I found it a real delight to play and enjoyed every minute of this unique opportunity. An audience of visitors quickly formed in the main body of the church and tea and cakes, provided by the good ladies of the parish, were enjoyed by all! What better way to spend a cold and wet Saturday afternoon and what a complete privilege to have been given the opportunity to play this wonderful instrument!!!!

A huge thankyou to Miles and Geoff for being there and guiding us through the stop registrations and of course to the committee and all those who worked so tirelessly to organise a wonderful afternoon to make sure that it was such a success.

Report by Ian Gouge

Somerset Organists’ Support Scheme

As part of our educational outreach we have set up…


Our latest initiative is a scheme to offer a free one-hour visit to give guidance on the organ you usually play.


  • For players and prospective players of all abilities and ages
  • You may be a pianist who has been asked to play the organ
  • Or be interested in understanding the organ better
  • Or just someone wishing to improve their playing


  • How the mechanism works
  • What the stops do and which are the best ones to use
  • How to play a hymn or song effectively
  • How to use the organ to encourage a congregation to sing their best
  • How to start to use the pedals
  • How to practise effectively
  • Where you can get help to learn more and develop your skills in the future

These are just suggestions, but the sessions can be tailored to individual needs.


Please feel free to contact the following SOCA representatives:

Yeovil Area
Stephen Bell

Bridgwater Area
John Bodiley

Taunton Area and General
Miles Quick


Chairman’s Report November 2019

           Chairman’s Report – November 2019

April 9th this year saw us in St Mary’s Bridgwater yet again. This time for the Memorial Service for Brendan Chandler with an ad hoc choir who sang John Rutter’s “Gaelic Blessing”. Brendan had loyally served St Mary’s together with SOCA and the RSCM for a great many years. He is greatly missed.

Our programme of events during the year have included a discussion evening on Performance Anxiety led, and hosted, by Hilary Shaw. A visit to East Devon organs & Michael Farley’s workshop in Budleigh Salterton, taking in  St Peter’s, Budleigh Salterton, Michael’s workshop at Colaton Raleigh, David Davies recital at Withcombe Raleigh Parish Church, Sidmouth Parish Church, and Ottery St Mary. And in July we enjoyed a “Play the Organ” event at St Mary’s Bridgwater. September saw a visit to Edington Priory with its recent 2manual Harrison & Harrison organ with Mark Venning talking about its design, followed by the remodelled church at Holy Trinity, Frome, with their top of the range 3manual Allen digital organ, and ending up at Hemington (dating from the 1340’s and now in the care of the Churches Conservation Trust) with their delightful single manual and pedal organ rebuilt by Trevor Tipple.

Some of our members have individually enjoyed recitals in Wells Cathedral, Llandaff Cathedral, and Buckfast Abbey with its new Ruffatti organ.

The year has, at last, seen the launch of our “Somerset Organists Support Scheme” offering support for players and prospective players of all abilities and ages. This is worthy of far greater support and PR than it has so far achieved. The Scheme is the result of a lot of hard work from those who have set it up, and it could be a great asset to churches of all denominations if only we could get the support it deserves from the respective authorities.

 A lot could be learned from our neighbouring associations as to managing to appeal to our prospective membership. We suffer from being essentially a rural association covering a very wide and, in much of our geography – sparsely populated, catchment area. Church congregations are diminishing fast, and with that, the financial abilities to maintain expensive items such as organs. It is no wonder that the clergy find a music group who provide their own instruments and time at no cost whatsoever to their churches to be an attractive proposition. If we are seen as awkward and unhelpful people with old fashioned ideas, unwilling to compromise, then I fear that organs and organists will continue to disappear from the worship scenario in many churches. This once happened on a national scale in the past, though for very different religion based political reasons, and organs and organists bounced back eventually. Our “Cathedral Tradition” is admired worldwide and is deserving of continuing preservation and support. But the wind of change is blowing strongly in our smaller churches and, if we are to survive, we must make compromises. We are all, including our clergy, servants to our churches. I’m reminded of the organist who stated that “I will not permit such rubbish to be sung in my church”. I had to remind him that it is not “my church”, and we are all here as “servants to OUR church”. I can envisage a time when the major churches, abbeys, and Cathedrals will have pipe organs accompanying proficient choirs, whilst the smaller parish churches will have essentially congregational music of whatever kind but, hopefully a mixed balance. The organ is still the most capable instrument for leading congregational singing with its sustained tone.

Our thanks are due to all our committee members for their time and support, but especially to Derek for coping with the massive amount of work required of our Secretary. Also to Doug for keeping our finances in good order, and to Miles for maintaining our website.

Exciting plans for 2020 are already in the pipeline and I recommend watching the website for future news and events.   The success of SOCA is up to all of our membership, not just the committee. If ideas feed in from everyone as to possible events, maybe even ‘local’ events, then your committee can gauge what is likely to be successful. It is, after all, an association of all its parts. I am stepping down from the Chair now, and I really do wish SOCA the very best for its future.

Ray Willis

23 November 2019

Llandaff Recital by David Briggs.

On Saturday, 7th September, I was unable to go on the SOCA trip because we had an arrangement to visit an old friend currently living in Cardiff. To compensate for the omission, we went to hear David Briggs play the Gala Recital in Llandaff Cathedral as part of the IAO’s Organfest in Cardiff.

It was an outstanding performance. He began with his own transcription of the final movement from Saint-Saens’ Organ Symphony, in which he played the orchestral parts as well as the organ solo. A Chorale Prelude by Bach led into Bach’s Piѐce d’Orgue with some interesting registration, and some rubato in the middle section. Then came Beethoven’s Fugue in D, a new piece to me. After a quiet movement from a Widor symphony, the real meat of the first part of the recital was a performance of Dupré’s 2nd Symphony. This is, as some of you will know, a piece requiring an outstanding technique along with an ability to get the most from a major organ. The colour that David Briggs obtained was dazzling, constantly changing, and ranging from a rich string chorus through to heavy reeds.

The second part consisted of an improvisation on 3 Welsh tunes: in English, these were Land Of My Fathers, All Through The Night, and Men Of Harlech. Again, the variety of sounds and musical styles was stupendous, with fugues and toccatas aplenty.

The recital was recorded by the BBC for a radio 3 broadcast on 25th September. I recommend listening to it. Perhaps it might be worth considering a SOCA visit? This Nicholson organ was all new a few years ago, and has huge tonal resources.

John Bodiley

Lunchtime Organ Recital by Matthew Redman, Wells Cathedral, Thursday 11th July 2019

Matthew Redman and Robin Walker after Wells Cathedral Reciral Thur11July19 192v

above:  Robin Walker (composer) and Matthew Redman after the recital

Matthew Redman’s lunchtime recital at Wells Cathedral on Thursday 11thJuly 2019 was filled with upbeat and enjoyable pieces and playing.  Matthew introduced himself in ebullient fashion before launching into Robin Walker’s Carillon.  The composer himself was present (see photo) and this made an assertive and joyful start to the recital.  The pieces that followed were all from the twentieth century by composers as diverse as Jehan Alain and Harold Brittain.  In the Alain dances the rhythmic intricacy was invigorating, and it was good to hear the late Peter Hurford’s Paean which again celebrated the splendid range of colours available on the Wells organ.  Matthew’s knowledge of this organ really paid off and we heard some deliciously unusual sounds.  Great dexterity was shown in the Vierne Impromptu.  Pedal dexterity (!) was also tellingly demonstrated in Brittain’s Variations on I got rhythm– including moments of quadruple pedalling – which ended this recital as it began, in joyous and celebratory form.

Report by Miles Quick

Performance Anxiety: a talk for SOCA members, June 2019

Several SOCA members met together and took part in a facilitated discussion of Performance Anxiety in the relaxed atmosphere of my family home. We freely examined its causes, psychological and physical, and looked at a number of strategies for mitigation in the light of current research.

In particular we discovered that:

  • Performance Anxiety is common and widespread amongst all musicians, including the Professionals…you are not alone!
  • It manifests in the classic Fight/Flight response to Fear
  • Fear in performance relates to how we, and others, perceive us. It is a learned response, reinforced by repeated stress.
  • Adults are capable of re-thinking past experiences
  • Adults can re-set their emotions with Effort and Practice.
  • As well as technical practice, we need to Practise Performing.
  • There are a number of strategies which can help with managing performance anxiety, and each individual will benefit from their own unique selection.
  • There are also strategies for dealing with performance nerves “on the day”. Again, individuals need to find what works best for them.
  • Limited Nerves may not be All Bad after all.
  • The ISM has looked at the issue in some detail. Downloads are available from org. Blogposts from  and similar may be useful. Post 2015 searches of the UK press may yield useful information.

If there are SOCA members who would like to look at this issue, or whose family members or friends may be interested, please get in touch with the Secretary. I may be able to repeat the session in the future. Remember performance anxiety is not exclusive to organists, it can be a problem for all musicians, speakers and singers.

Hilary Shaw B.Sc., PGCE.

An appreciation by Ray Willis:

A small group of SOCA members gathered on the evening of Thursday 13th June 2019 for a talk and discussion on “Coping with Performance Nerves … What’s New” hosted and led by Hilary Shaw. This is an enormous subject and Hilary prepared (and expounded upon) a comprehensive and informative sheet to guide us along the way. The evening proved most valuable as there is very little information specifically relating to organists; and those that work in churches are performers on each occasion. The discussion times showed that we each have our own particular ways of coping (or not coping as the case may be) with issues ranging from self confidence through managing criticism (often from people least qualified to make such), to realising that even highly experienced players get it wrong sometimes! Psychology – particularly Sports Psychology – offers us a great help in all of this, and Hilary brought us up to date with current thinking. The importance of Practising Performance alongside the notes was emphasised, and of particular interest here were the two new Booklets published by the ISM Trust. Other relevant blog-sites and research journals were listed. A big thank-you to Hilary for the evening – including tea and cakes – and a follow-up event is to be hoped for.