May 2015

THE MAY VISIT TO CANTERBURY (A report by Terrence Hancock)

 On our arrival at St Mildred’s were were welcomed by Keith Rishworth, an Assistant Organist at the church.  He told us a little about the organ, before it was demonstrated to us, and then members played various pieces to show off its various qualities.  The Organ at St Mildred’s Church, Canterbury was originally built during the 1890s by FH Browne & Sons, as a private practice instrument, possibly for Mr Browne himself.   From 1899 it was kept in a church at Herne Bay, and lent out on hire.  In 1906 it was installed in St Mildred’s Church, still on hire, until in 1925 it was finally bought for the church by the late Mr FG Mount.   Following this it was rebuilt and enlarged in 1928, and again in 1933, with the addition of an electric blower, all at Mr Mount’s expense.   At this time it stood to the north of the chancel.   In December 1972 a serious fire badly damaged the church and the back of the organ, and considerable repairs were necessary.  Ten years later it was removed to Browne’s workshops, which at that time were adjacent to the church, and completely rebuilt.   A new electro-magnetic action was installed, operating the original cone-valve chests, and numerous tonal alterations were made, under the guidance of Mr David Flood, who was then the Assistant Organist of Canterbury Cathedral.  The organ was then returned to the north-west corner of the nave, with the space it previously occupied being used to create new vestries and a church room.  Since that time it has been used for many recitals and concerts, and has been much in demand for practice.  In recent years it has survived, without harm, both a complete re-roofing of the church, and installation of an efficient new central heating system.  Although this is only a two manual instrument, (Great 8,8,8,4,4,2,III,8; Swell 8,8,8,8,4,2,8,8; Pedal 32,16,16,8,8,4,16,8) the reeds are very powerful and the entire ensemble fills the building with sound.  The quieter stops by contrast are very pleasing, and the flute are of a delicate nature.

Following a leisurely lunch at the White Hart we made our way on foot to the Cathedral.  at 3.15pm was sung by the Cathedral Choir under the direction of David Flood with David Newsholme playing the organ.    The responses were sung to a setting by Reading and the Canticles were by Stanford in A.  The anthem was Rise, heart, thy Lord is Risen (Vaughan Williams).  The final hymn (All creatures of our God and King) sung at great speed!  As the choir and clergy left the concluding voluntary was Marche Pontificale by C M Widor.  David Flood then returned to the quire and outlined the plans for Harrison and Harrison to provide a remodelled instrument in 2016-7 which will have a new Solo division, thereby turning the present three manual organ into a four manual.  The pipework presently is all located in the south triforium, with the console on the screen, the organist facing south.  The new arrangement will bring new pipework to the north triforium which should create an improved balance and variety.  The console will be sited above the north side of the quire on a specially built platform, thus enabling the organist to hear the choir to best advantage.  The photograph on the below shows the present nave organ.We were then offered the freedom of the console, and this was taken up enthusiastically by several members.

Together with members of the Crawley and Horsham Association, there was a good number attending, making the visit a successful occasion.