SOCA Visit to Buckland St. Mary    13th September 2022

A dozen or so members of SOCA with their associates gathered at the fine Victorian church at Buckland St. Mary to hear and play the Sweetland organ in the church. Most of us met up first for an excellent lunch at The York Inn, in Churchinford. Thanks are due to David Yates for setting up this visit, and testing the quality of pub food beforehand: a tough job, but someone has to do it!

On arrival at St. Mary’s, Buckland, the benefice curate, Nick Jerrett, greeted us, and led us in a short prayer. This included a thank you to church musicians, which was very satisfying to hear for people whose contribution to worship is sometimes taken for granted. Those not playing had an pportunity to admire the workmanship in this large church: in particular the polished marble and ornate tiling in the chancel.

John Crump, a SOCA committee member, is an admirer of the work of Sweetland, and has had long association with the instrument in this church. He gave us a detailed account of the organ’s history, and spoke of the relatively few changes made over the years. This organ is in many ways an original, sounding much as it did when first built. After this, members were free to play. Tea and coffee were provided at the West end of the church.

SOCA members who were unable to attend are invited to try this splendid organ by getting in touch with John Crump or the benefice to check availability.

In the pictures below, David Bidgood and Andrew Carter try the organ.

David Knight R.I.P.

Members will be sad to hear that David has recently died. His funeral will be held at Kingston St Mary Parish Church (where he was Organist) at 12 noon on Tuesday 2nd August 2022. May he rest in peace and rise in Glory.

Kingston St Mary Church 

Tuesday 2nd August 2022

A Service of Thanksgiving for the life of 

David Richard Knight 

I only knew David very briefly, mainly through our SOCA visits to different Organs. However it was clear on entering the church on a beautiful summer’s day that David was loved and well known to a good many other people as the church was nearly full.
The organ was played most competently by John Bodiley who treated us to Elegy- by George Thalben-Ball and two pieces by Bach prior to the start of the service. At 12 o’clock the church bell tolled and David was brought into the church as John played ‘Wenn wir in hochsten Noten sein’ by JS Bach which literally translates to ‘When we are in the greatest need’. This was the last piece of music that Bach actually wrote during the last week of his life by which time he was very weak and had gone blind. He had to dictate the notes to a scribe who wrote them down. It would be good to know that Bach actually heard the piece played before he himself died – but who knows?

The majority of the service was mostly about David’s life beginning with daily piano practice before school (closely watched over by his mum!) and then via a short spell in the RAF as an engineering officer, a scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music, a brief spell of teaching in a secondary school and ending as head of music in a college department. He was also on the examining board for the Royal Schools of Music, a position which took him all over the world.
Following a number incumbencies as organist and choirmaster in a number of churches throughout the country, David finally saw the light and came to Somerset! David was initially organist of Dulverton Parish church, then organist of Trinity Church in Taunton and finally organist and choirmaster at Kingston St Mary. Here he was clearly well-loved and respected and was able to lead the choir most ably. One of his most recent ideas was to re- introduce choral evensong on the last Sunday of the month. The first of these was in June and by all accounts very well attended, including a picnic afterwards. Sadly though, David had become unwell by then and was unable to attend.

David musical talents were clearly not just confined to church music as witnessed by his association with the King Alfred concert band who, during the time of reflection played ‘I’ll be there’ and ‘Happy Days are here again’. The choir also gave a beautiful rendition of ‘Creator God’ by Margaret Rizza and accompanied by John. 

All in all it was a beautiful and very dignified service to man who, from his very early days of daily pre-school piano practice to the lofty heights of teacher, performer and examiner lived a very full life of music. He will be very sadly missed.

                  Requiescat in Pace David

Ian Gouge

David Knight was educated at the University of London and the Royal Academy of Music in London.    He held posts as Director of Music at an English secondary school and a college of higher education.    During this time he also had posts as accompanist and conductor of a selection of choirs.    He was a church organist for over fifty years, not only for the Church of England, but also for the Church of Norway where he lived for four years.    He taught at the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama for seven years and was an examiner for the Royal Schools of Music.    He performed in cathedrals in England, Ireland, Norway and Hong Kong.    More recently he was Musical Director of the Watchet Choral Society, and the Apollo Wind Band in Yate.    He also served on the Somerset committee of the Royal School of Church Music. His last post was as Organist and Choir Director in Kingston St Mary church, and he was also President of the Dorset Association of Organists.   

SOCA Visit to Wrington:  Saturday, 11th June, 2022

SOCA members past and present met at the fine church of Wrington, a few miles south of Bristol Airport, last Saturday afternoon. The village is delightful, and the weather favoured us, with fine, warm sunshine.

The meeting began with a brief history of the church from mediaeval times. Despite many changes over the centuries, It retains a sense of unity in terms if its architecture, and is a wonderfully light building, with many windows. We were told also of well-known people who have associations with the village: John Locke, the philosopher, and Hannah More, a writer and philanthropist, who fought against the slave trade.

We were very fortunate that Andrew Cooper, the organ builder who has completed the recent restoration on the instrument, was on hand to explain what had been done. At the back of the church, he had set up an exhibition of detailed colour photographs of the interior of the organ. In addition to a complete overhaul and clean, a rank of Willis pipes had been inserted to replace a damaged rank from Walker’s original specification. The organist, Michael Taylor, demonstrated individual stops on the organ, building up to the full sound. By way of demonstration, he then played a Howells’ Psalm Prelude, and Karg-Elert’s “Nun Danket”. There are complete choruses up to mixtures on both manuals, with some lovely flutes at 8’ and 4’ pitch, and 2 contrasting reeds on the swell.

SOCA members then enjoyed playing the organ, and additionally enjoyed tea and cake, thoughtfully provided by the church. The pictures below show Andrew Carter extemporising, Miles Quick playing with Michael Taylor overseeing, and Doug Smith.


Review of the ‘Aspiring Organists Day’ directed by Rosemary Field  held at Stogursey Parish Church on Saturday 14th May 2022

Review of the Aspiring Organists Day directed by Rosemary Field

held at Stogursey Parish Church on Saturday 14th May 2022

Stogursey is one of those remote Somerset villages in which you could imagine just about anything happening. Under the blissful sun of Saturday 14th May, it was a gathering of six Somerset organists. 

This “Aspiring Organists’ Day” was run by Rosemary Field, former Head of Organ Studies at the Royal School of Church Music and currently Organist of Worksop Priory.  It may, perhaps, have been more accurately described as a “Returning Organists’ Day,” for most of the attendants were former cathedral scholars returning to the instrument after gaps that spanned decades. Fifty years was the record. 

Rosemary Field demonstrated her formidable knowledge of the organ in what was effectively a three-hour masterclass, broken by an essential walk up to the church hall for coffee and cakes. In calm but intense sessions, she took us all through the finer details that can improve (or detract from) an organist’s performance, such as posture and how to position our feet to reach the outer regions of the pedal-board. Coordination between manuals and pedals was a popular concern among the students and much of the second session was devoted to this. 

Stogursey’s organ proved an ideal teaching assistant, being a sizeable instrument with a light, consistent touch. The stop-list is of reasonable length, being substantially longer than that of a tiny village organ without the breadth of choice of Taunton Minster that the present writer still finds confusing. 

The three-hour duration does no justice to the wealth of advice Rosemary conveyed. The day was deeply informative and satisfying for all concerned, with a healthy level of challenge. We rounded off with an improvised rendition of Psalm 150, which names only a few of the organ’s many instrumental voices. A fitting end in a most ethereal setting. 

David Bidgood

SOCA AGM day at St Mary Magdalene Church, Taunton – Saturday 6th November 2021

President’s Report:    Stephen Bell welcomed everyone to the meeting, commenting on the rare pleasure of seeing people face to face. He gave a brief review of the events that had been able to happen in recent months: the talk on Mendelssohn;   the visit to Ilminster;  the visit to Honiton.  He thanked those responsible for organising these events. It was pleasing to see more non-members at Holy Trinity for the Mendelssohn event, but numbers attending the “Come and Play” visits were disappointingly low. Stephen hoped that we were all looking forward to the recital later in the day (see below).

Looking to the future, Stephen hoped to attract more members to events, and to try to persuade more young members to join and take part. He also hoped to create stronger links with the cathedral, now that the musicians there were members. He also regretted the narrowness of our geographical appeal, and wished to see a wider catchment area for our events.

Stephen thanked the committee for the support that he had received. Reciprocal thanks are due to Stephen for his leadership over the past two years.

Secretary’s report:   John Bodiley had nothing special to report on his final day in the post. He did, however, point out that the new organ gallery page on the website was for the practical interest of, and use by, the members. Currently, there are details of three instruments on the page, and he hoped that more members would submit information on more organs in the area. He pointed out that the organs were there for all to try. John was thanked for his time in office.

Election of officers and committee for 2021/22

President:   John Bodiley    prop.   SB   sec.   AC

Secretary:   David Yates      prop.    JC   sec.   DS

Treasurer:   Doug Smith      prop.   HS   sec.   JB

Auditor:      Charles P-W     prop.   IH   sec.   JB

Paul Hale’s Organ Recital and Talk

At 11.00 a.m., Paul Hale gave a fine recital, illustrating the many colours of the Willis organ, and entertaining the audience with informative anecdotes. It was pleasing to see a sizeable audience.

Some committee members then moved across to Zizzi’s restaurant with Paul Hale, for an excellent meal. Thanks to Miles Quick for organising this, and for compiling the informative programme for Paul’s recital.

In the afternoon, Paul gave a talk, defining the work he does as an organ consultant.  As examples, he used the organs at St. Peter’s Church. Wolverhampton, recently re-built by Michael Farley (who was present) and Radley College Chapel – a largely new instrument in a fine case. He briefly mentioned a small organ for a village church in Warwickshire, and work in New Zealand on organs ruined in the 2011 earthquake. The talk was followed by an excellent tea, for which thanks are due to the cafe staff at St. Mary Magdalene.

Overall, this was a very good day, and it is hoped that more interest in organs and organ-playing may have been fostered.

Paul at St Mary Magdalene, Taunton

SOCA Visit to Honiton

On 7 October 12 SOCA members gathered at St Paul’s Church Honiton to enjoy the spectacular 1999 organ by Kenneth Tickell – in perfect condition following a comprehensive tuning on the previous day.

After a welcome from Stephen Bell, Andrew Carter summarised the history of organs in St Paul’s, much assisted by a comprehensive historical leaflet by John Mingay, the former organist of the church who masterminded the procurement of the Tickell instrument so efficiently that it was inaugurated debt-free. Andrew introduced the various ranks, individually and in combination, which were demonstrated with skilful improvisations by Stephen.

Andrew then gave a short recital of music by composers ranging from 16th-century Venice to 20th-century France, featuring contrasting plenos, trio combinations, the lively Cornet, the eloquent Cremona and the luscious Vox Angelica: all facilitated by the sensitive and responsive tracker action.

Members then took full advantage of the opportunity to play themselves. At the end of a successful afternoon there was common agreement that this beautiful instrument, perfectly voiced in a responsive acoustic, is one of the musical jewels of the South-West.

SOCA visit to Ilminster Sat 25th September 2021, 2.30 – 4 pm

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.