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
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.
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.
Four of our members, John Bodiley, Stephen Bell, Andrew Carter and Ian Heavisides presented this event on Saturday 7th August 2021. John gave a carefully prepared talk on Mendelssohn’s life and work, illustrated by extracts played by the other three members on the fine 3-manual Hill organ at Holy Trinity, which was recently restored by Andrew Fearn. This was a well attended event, and it was lovely to see people enjoying live music in person again after the long period of muting. Many thanks to all concerned.
We recently contributed an item on recently restored organs in Taunton as part of this countrywide survey of organs and organ playing – please see the YouTube clip below!
We are sure you will be sad to learn of the untimely death of our member Jerry King. Jerry and his wife, Eleanor, originally came from Loughton, Essex, to live in Backwell where Jerry joined the choir singing bass and was very willing to play the organ when needed. In 2000 when Jean Routley retired from being organist at Backwell Jerry took over. Jerry, Eleanor and their two daughters, Sarah and Hannah, remained at Backwell until Eleanor was ordained, and they moved away, first of all to North Petherton and then to Nether Stowey. Jerry held various roles on the RSCM Somerset Committee, and latterly was the highly efficient Secretary. In that role he organised many events for singers and organists. He was also a much valued committee member of SOCA. In addition, he became chairman of the Diocesan Choral Association which is responsible for the annual Diocesan Choral Festival in Wells Cathedral. His involvement in all these organisations has done much to facilitate communication and mutual support. Sadly in 2016 Jerry suffered the amputation of his left foot, but he still continued to lead an active musical life. His death at the age of 65, has come as a great shock and he will be much missed in the church musical life of Somerset.
7th May 2021