Covid 19 update

Covid 19 Update from our Secretary
I’m sure that it will come as no surprise that the SOCA committee members feel that the future is too uncertain in 2020 to continue with our proposed programme in the Autumn. The visit to Homiton, and the quiz, are therefore postponed. The talk/recital by Paul Hale, due to follow our AGM in November, has also been postponed. Paul is willing to return next year, and has been booked for Saturday, November 6th, 2021. The committee will try to hold some sort of meeting in 2020, perhaps by Zoom.
In view of the fact that Stephen’s year as President has been blighted, the committee has invited him to remain in post for a further year. He has accepted, and Hilary Shaw has generously allowed her year of presidency to be deferred.
We are aware that members have not had a very good return on their 2020 membership subscriptions, and at some stage this year, we will consider adjusting the 2021 subscriptions.
John Bodiley  SOCA Secretary
9th July 2020

‘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


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.



Wells Cathedral lunchtime recital by Christopher Herrick



Christopher Herrick at the console of Wells Cathedral

The Wells Cathedral lunchtime recital on Thursday 13th June was given in a decidedly soggy Wells by distinguished recitalist Christopher Herrick, who stated in his introduction that the recital would consist entirely of secular music. His programme, which was enthusiastically received by an appreciative audience, consisted of works by Verdi, Lemare, Mozart and the contemporary Norwegian composer Mons Leidvin Takle (b. 1942).

First on the programme was the well-known Grand March from Aida, arranged by Edwin Lemare, and Christopher Herrick. This was everything you would expect from a Lemare arrangement, but with added emphasis towards the end when all the themes previously heard were woven together in a grand flourish. This was followed with a Concert Fantasia by Edwin Lemare which is a lively upbeat improvisation on three very English melodies. “The Sailor’s Hornpipe, “The British Grenadiers’ and “Rule Britannia”. At the climax of the piece, while the hands are weaving together the original three melodies, Lemare simultaneously manages to include the tune of “Auld Lang Syne” in the pedals.

The Mozart Fantasia in F minor K608, which was originally written for a mechanical clock, was followed by Power of Life composed by the Norwegian Mons Leidvin Takle. This composer and his music was new to me, and what an introduction – the piece was power and drive all the way. He is a church musician, a well-travelled concert organist, and a prolific composer of vocal, instrumental and widely performed organ compositions.

Power of Life, dedicated to Christopher Herrick, is the first of nineteen pieces in a collection called Festivity. This energetic piece is full of breath-taking rhythmic drive and catchy melodies, as well as insistent repeated notes and chords. The piece reminded me a little of Sibelius with its energy and momentum, and was an absolute joy to listen to in an amazing performance by Christopher Herrick.

Report by Derek Jones

SOCA visit to East Devon Organs & Michael Farley’s workshop

Michael Farley organised an excellent visit for members of SOCA on Wednesday 1st May 2019.

The day started at St Peter’s Parish Church, Budleigh Salterton, where we tried the organ and enjoyed its wide range of sounds and comfortable Harrison-style console. The instrument was rebuilt by Michael Farley in the early 1990s incorporating the existing Hele Organ of 1898. The Vicar at the time, Canon Kenneth Parry, a former Canon of Worcester and later Precentor at Exeter Cathedral, acquired the Harrison Nave Organ from Worcester Cathedral (originally built by Harrison for St. Basil, Deritend, Birmingham). The scheme was drawn up by Roger Fisher and Michael Farley. The organ loft was cleared and a fresh start made, rebuilding the instrument using the best of the two organs and new additions.   The Nave section was on wheels and remains with Harrison’s 1970s classical style open tipped voicing as it was in Worcester.

We then moved to Michael Farley’s workshop in Colaton Raleigh where we were warmly greeted by members of his friendly and dedicated staff. We were able to see several instruments in various stages of construction, and various interesting pipework and processes.

Some members of the party then adjourned to hear David Davies’s recital (In memoriam Peter Hurford) at Withcombe Raleigh Parish Church, Exmouth on the 3-manual Walker there. Music included works by Mendelssohn, Alain, Howells, Bach, Reger and Peter Hurford. This was a most enjoyable interlude.

In the afternoon first we visited Sidmouth Parish Church for a demonstration of the organ there by the resident Director of Music & Organist, Bob Millington (also a member of Michael Farley’s staff). Bob has worked with Michael as a tuner and tonal finisher for many years and this organ was rebuilt to his specification in 1993. This is now a resourceful 4-manual instrument. The basis of it was by William Hill and it still contains much Hill pipework though it had received several rebuilds throughout the last century.   In recent years the 4th Manual was added and also a new transmission system. Two bellows have recently been re-leathered and more work on the winding is pending. Everyone who wished was given the opportunity to play the organ and admire the much-improved layout of the church following refurbishment and removal of the Victorian pews.

The final visit of the afternoon was to the magnificent Ottery St Mary Parish Church – a smaller-scale version of Exeter Cathedral. The organ here is split on either side of the choir stalls and is again a most effective and resourceful instrument for the church’s needs in the C21st. It is comfortable to play, with a wide tonal range and a thrilling trumpet stop which works well as a solo reed and carries well down the nave when a rousing effect is needed for the congregation. This organ was also rebuilt by Michael Farley and his team. All the organists still standing by the end of the day enjoyed playing this instrument and also the excellent tea and doughnuts provided.

SOCA is most grateful to Michael Farley for organising a most successful day for us, and to his team for their help also. His firm has clearly made a great contribution over many years to the organs and practical church music in the Southwest of England and increasingly on a wider plain – from Wolverhampton to Malta! It was a most instructive and enjoyable day.

Miles Quick,  May 2019

Memorial Service for Brendan Chandler 

Friends and family of Brendan Chandler gathered today, 8th April, for a memorial service at St. Mary’s Church, Bridgwater, a church which Brendan had served for over 40 years. As well as his membership of St. Mary’s, and its choir, Brendan had been a loyal member of SOCA, and of the R.S.C.M., and these organisations were represented in the congregation.

Adrian, Brendan’s brother, paid a warm tribute, mentioning aspects of Brendan’s personal, professional and musical life. The news of Brendan’s attachment to buses and coaches was a surprise to many! The Reverend Trish Ollive, who took the service, mentioned at the start Brendan’s love of The Book of Common Prayer, and traditional words were used throughout. An ad hoc choir finished the service by singing Rutter’s Gaelic Blessing, directed by Peter Cartwright, Brendan’s brother-in-law. Doug Smith played gathering music before the service, and I played for the service itself, with 2 well-known hymns, and the music of J.S.Bach opening and closing the event.

Afterwards, there was a chance to reminisce in Bar 27 over an excellent buffet and drinks. All felt that the service had been a fitting tribute to the man.

On a personal note, I will always remember Brendan’s phenomenal memory. He was the choir librarian, and as we planned the next month’s music, selecting anthems and settings for the services, Brendan knew, without reference to the catalogue, the precise location of all our music.

“I think we’ll do Dyson in F for choral evensong.”

“1988 Festival Service Book, page 7. I think there will be enough copies, but if not, we have extras in folder 273.”

And there was never any need to check.

John Bodiley