June 2010

Visit to Tetbury and Cirencester
 
The last Saturday of June saw members heading west, in glorious early summer weather, towards the beautiful Cotswold countryside, the attractive towns of Tetbury and Cirencester, and two very fine organs.
 
Tebury Organ
Built from 1777 and replacing an earlier medieval church, Tetbury Parish Church is one of the earliest and finest examples of Georgian Gothic; its spire  is apparently the fourth highest in the country, hence we had no problem locating the church upon entering the busy town.  We were delighted to meet up again with Keith Lewis, a stalwart of the Association for many years, who now lives in Cirencester and to whom we are indebted for arranging the day’s activities.
 
The lofty and spacious church of St Mary the Virgin has an ample acoustic, which  enhances the quite distinguished sound of its fine organ placed high on a west gallery.  An earlier organ by Nicholson (1863), originally on the gallery, was moved to the east end (1901) and completely rebuilt by Binns of Leeds in 1912; in 1993 the Binns organ was rebuilt on the gallery and electro-pneumatic action installed. The specification is given in the last Newsletter. 
 
The Organist, Graham Kean, gave us a brief introduction to the organ after which members played .  All in all a most enjoyable experience, notwithstanding that the instrument urgently needs a clean and attention to the action.  Graham Kean played us out with a powerful rendering of ‘Nun Komm der Heiden Heiland’  (JSB) and we then headed for Cirencester.

Thanks to Keith Lewis’s forethought,  we not only had detailed maps to guide us through the maze of streets in Cirencester, but also the use of private parking facilities a little way from the church. So all 16 members and friends arrived without too much delay at the impressive Parish Church of St John the Baptist where, in an upper room, there was a welcome buffet lunch laid out for us – including some very tasty ‘desserts’ ! 
 
Cirencester Organ
The origins of the church are founded in the 12th century with changes and rebuilding over the years too numerous to mention here, but some significant part of what we see today owes something to the influence of Sir George Gilbert Scott – including part of the 1865 organ case which remains in use in the chancel as part of the new organ.
 
The Organist and Director of Music is Anthony Hammond, whose close involvement with the 2009 Harrison & Harrison rebuild of the 1895/6 Willis organ enabled him to give us a  detailed and fascinating verbal introduction to the organ.  There is a splendid article by Mr Hammond in Organists’ Review (Feb 2010) and other notes and a specification in the June Newsletter.  The 4 manual console is very impressive and the organ cases dignified – but the best was still to come.

Cirencester Organ case
For his demonstration Anthony Hammond asked us to select a hymn tune on which he would improvise in several movements and the well known tune “Down Ampney” (the name of a nearby Cotswold village) was chosen.  There followed a masterly outpouring of music in different styles which took in the whole palette and dynamic range  of this wonderful organ;  the grand finale was in the style of a French toccata which reached a furious and exciting full organ climax. There were many visitors in the church at the time, apart from our group, and they joined with our applause.  Follow that !   Of course we couldn’t – but  members played a wide variety of pieces and gave a good account of themselves; we also had more than enough playing time for some to grab the organ stool for a second time.
 
 
 
Following tea and cakes, kindly provided by Jane Lewis and helpers, it was time to head for home.  So we bade farewell to Keith, thanking him for his part in making the arrangements for a memorable day and thanked Anthony Hammond for his inspired playing and for giving us the opportunity of ‘hands on’ experience of a wonderful organ.

Let us hope that ‘Father Willis’ is smiling down benignly on H & H’s work.
 
Frank Foxen