May 2012

St Peter's Church
One of the few decent sunny days of this seemingly dreary spring saw a disappointingly small group of members, eight ESOA and two from Crawley & Horsham Association, assemble for the first of the day’s visits. The Parish Church of St Peter is a lofty and spacious building with ancient origins but much altered over the centuries, its last major restoration being late 19th century by the same Lord Grimthorpe who had earlier extensively restored the nearby Abbey Church.
St Peter's Church
It is not untypical that the church information leaflet devotes precisely one and a half lines of its four pages to the organ - an instrument which must have cost them dearly and which they are fortunate to possess.
The 39 stop 3 manual organ by Mander (2005) is placed in a north aisle/front of chancel location and speaks freely into the church; the impressive, lofty case with east and south facing display facades is a dominant feature within the building. In the absence of the resident organist this visit turned into a DIY enterprise and there was ample time for all to investigate what proved to be a very satisfying instrument – pleasantly weighted tracker action, variety, power, sweetness all there with a good degree of the “English” sound which was often lacking in some of the Mander organs of decades ago.

Upon leaving St Peter’s we headed for a leisurely lunch before making our way to the Cathedral.
Abbey
Whilst exploring the Abbey prior to the pre-service rehearsal to which we were invited, the pleasing strains of organ music could be heard emanating from the large east end vaulted Lady Chapel where a marriage was in progress. There was indeed a small free standing organ there, but it looked rather derelict and what we had been listening to was actually a 1990s Allen – it was exceptionally good and Tom Winpenny (Asst Master of the Music) played on it an impressive performance of the Widor V Toccata as the service ended.

Abbey
We moved on to the choir rehearsal with Andrew Lucas taking the boys and men through some fairly demanding rather atonal music by Viadana (16th century) and Orr and Hadley (20th century), followed by Evensong with a closing voluntary by Basil Harwood played by Tom Winpenny. Andrew Lucas proved to be a genial and interesting host and, after a short talk about the organ, most except the faint hearted then climbed the spiral staircase to the organ loft where members played, and Andrew talked some more and demonstrated various attributes of the organ and opened up some of the organ cases for inspection of “the works”(see John Eagles’
Abbey
extensive notes on the organ in last month’s newsletter). After its latest rebuild the organ is mightily impressive and to hear from the console, even briefly, is a real treat.

We are indebted to Andrew Lucas and Tom Winpenny for being such charming and interesting hosts. Thanks also to John Eagles for making all the arrangements for the day’s visits –what a pity the so few attended.

(Frank Foxen)
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