July 2010

Our trip to Farnham comprised visits to Churches in i) the suburb of Farnham, ii) Farnham town centre and iii) a glorious village/rural setting of Frensham, 5 miles East towards Hindhead.

St Thomas on the Bourne (a report by James West) - the current Church was built in 1911 and has excellent acoustics. The Church Choirs are worthy of mention. There is a boys’ and mens’ choir and a separate girls’choir with a total of 60 singers. In 1902 an organ was built at a cost of £300 by Nicholson & Co of Worcester which was supplied with a hydraulic blower costing £60. The organ was moved to the new church in 1911. It was very much an instrument of its time, with what might be described as "floods of 8ft tone": there were no mutations, mixtures or stops above 4ft pitch and there was only one reed stop. It had 2 manuals and pedals with 18 speaking stops. Nicholsons re-built the organ in 1990, adding a Gt Trumpet, Sw Vox Angelica and Tremulant. Tonal changes and modernizations were also made. The result is a classical instrument suited to early and French music. Julian Cooper FRCO demonstrated the organ and members particularly appreciated a 4’ Gt Flute. Julian gave a sparkling performance of the Final from Vierne 3. Members played works by Bach (Double Fugue in C Minor and Bist du bei mir) Chappell, Oldroyd and Mendelssohn. Lunch was enjoyed in the Church grounds with wiser heads finding a shaded area!

United Reformed Church, Farnham (a report by Frank Foxen and Anne Bennett) – The church lies in the centre of the town and contains a two manual 18 stop organ built by Henry Jones & Sons in 1906 with some renovation by Bishop & Sons in 1986; the organ was rebuilt by James Richardson-Jones, who formerly worked for Manders, in 2005/6.  The specification is given in the July Newsletter, but note that a two rank mixture has been substituted for the Great Clarinet and that there is a pedal 8ft Bass Flute and a Swell octave coupler.
The organist, John Mansfield, played a short demonstration piece after which the few playing members present had plenty of time to try the organ for themselves; we heard pieces by Bach, Hollins, Healey Willan, Rinck and Rawsthorne, amongst others.  This tracker action organ was pleasant enough to play, coped well with different styles of music and, with its very open ‘east end’ position, was well able to produce quite a strong sound.  A pleasant enough instrument, but unremarkable.

St Mary, Frensham
St Mary’s Church, Frensham (a report by Frank Foxen and Anne Bennett) – Our nine members then moved on to this delightful village church dating from the 13th century with a number of interesting features, including a large copper cauldron which was probably used in the mediaeval period for church ales – it was notably empty during our visit!  The organ here seems to have been through quite a few ‘enlargements and improvements’ in its 140 year life – the most recent work being in 2002 (see last newsletter) and it now has a rather larger specification and more resources than are usually found in small village churches – particularly in Surrey.

The organist, Mike Smith, played three short pieces for us – including the pleasant Interlude by Darke (Hovingham Sketches), a noisy Johnson Trumpet Tune and an attractive Cantilène by Stephen Burton Wood – after which our members played.  The organ has some very sweet and pleasant resources and also a lot of fairly powerful stuff, including an overstrong pedal reed.  Given the very high temperatures and humidity on the day of our visit and for some time before, it was not surprising that the reeds and flues were distinctly at odds with each other!  It would be good to hear and play this organ when temperatures had moderated.

This was an interesting day and we thank James West for making the arrangements.