Once again, the Ormskirk Occasional Singers, under the baton of former OPC Organist, Michael Kelsall) treated us to a memorable evening of musical delights! Punctuated by audience-participation with seasonal hymns, the programme included a number of very familiar items, as we as some not so familiar. This consisted of:
- Adam lay ybounden
- Gabriel’s Message
- Cherry Tree Carol
- And the Glory of the Lord (Messiah)
- For unto Us a child is born (Messiah)
- Angels’ Carol
- O Holy Night (solo)
- Angelus ad Virginem
- Sans Day Carol
- Star Carol
- Up, good Christen Folk
- What Cheer
- Rejoice and be Merry
- Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day
- Masters in this Hall
- The Christmas Song
- Jingle Bells
- Storke Carol (duet)
- The Twelve Days of Christmas
- We Wish you a Merry Christmas
What appeared to be a very long programme was entirely mitigated by the high performance quality throughout the concert.
Michael Kelsall (above) also played an organ solo; no mean feat given that his music was so tattered that each page was completely loose; a page-turner’s nightmare (as I soon discovered!). The concert was well-supported and we look forward to future visits by the choir.
Saturday 12 October, 2019
Not related to the Organ Appeal, but worthy of a mention, is the visit by the Choir of Liverpool Cathedral who gave a free concert of popular choral music, with donations as a fund-raiser towards their annual visit to foreign parts.
Directed by Cathedral Director of Music, Lee Ward, and accompanied by Professor Ian Tracey, Cathedral Organist Titulaire, the sound in the church was phenomenal. The concert lasted about an hour, and was made up of the following programme:
- Zadok the Priest – Handel
- Jesu, joy of man’s desiring – Bach
- Crucifixus – Lotti
- (Organ solo) Crown Imperial – Walton
- Justorum Animae – Stanford
- Te Deum – Vaughan Williams
- Jubilate – Britten
- This is the day – Rutter
- Let the people – Mathias
- (Organ solo) Toccata in F – Widor
- Hallelujah Chorus – Handel
Lee Ward’s demonstrative conducting was a model of how to give the choir continuous reminders of exactly what was needed, in terms of dynamics, phrasing and general style and had none of the hallmarks of the ‘token’ conductors so often seen. Professor Tracey managed the organ as he always does, never obviously falling foul of the instrument’s inconsistencies! All in all, an excellent experience which no-one should have missed!
Liverpool Cathedral Choir at Ormskirk Parish Church
Despite the organ loft being kept locked, at some point towards the end of August 2019, an unknown (and unauthorised) person seems to have accessed the inside of the organ and, in so doing, moved along the central passage board of the Great Organ, catching and damaging the resonators of seven of the treble pipes of the Great 16′ Trombone. Whoever did this needs to realise that moving around inside an organ is hazardous in the extreme! Some pipes were bent, others had snapped at the point where the resonator meets the block and, in one case, the entire resonator had parted company with the block.
Staff from David Wells Organ Builders responded immediately they were informed by accessing the church and removing the affected pipes for repair. Whereas previous repairs by other builders had amounted to simply re-soldering the resonators to the block, in this case, new sleeves were made for the bottom of the resonators and the blocks re-bored to accommodate them, providing a stronger mechanical joint as well as the soldering. The image below shows one of the affected pipes lying on the passage board; the reconstruction can clearly be seen, as can the proximity of the resonators of the smallest pipes to that passage board.
The evening of Friday 13 October saw the return of The Occasional Singers to Ormskirk Parish Church to deliver an evening’s entertainment under the leadership of their Musical Director, Michael Kelsall, who is also a former Organist here. Setting off with a rendition of Parry’s setting of William Blake’s poem, ‘Jerusalem’, with audience participation, the first half included a Mozart Anthem (translated into English as O God When Thou Appearest, a short setting of the text of Psalm 91, On Eagle’s Wings, by American priest, Fr. Michael Joncas and three songs S’Wonderful (Gershwin), Tea for Two (Youmans) and Deep Purple (de Rose). The ‘Madrigal’ from the comic opera, ‘The Mikado’, by WS Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan then led into the closing piece, Rodgers & Hammerstein on Broadway, a very cleverly-woven medley of excerpts from the musicals of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein.
Following the interval (the ubiquitous tea, coffee and biscuits having been served!) we returned to Charles Villiers Stanford’s fine B-flat setting of the Te Deum, accompanied on the organ, which was followed by a selection of songs from World War I, including the audience-participation item, Ticket to Heaven. The evening was rounded off with a medley of items arranged by MacHuff from Les Miserables, the Victor Hugo-inspired musical by Schönberg.
This was an evening enjoyed by all who attended (and missed by all those who didn’t!) and we thank the Occasionals for their dedication and commitment, and wish them every success in the future.
The Occasional Singers welcome new members and invite prospective singers to join them on a Monday evening, between 8pm and 10pm in The Arts Centre at Edge Hill University. For further information, contact the Secretary, Steph Ellis, on 01257 463461
Day 2 of the installation process got off to a good start; here, Keith and Martin (on floor!) go to great lengths to align the new blower perfectly with the box above, which encloses multiple non-return louvres to prevent wind moving back towards the blower itself.
The new stop-start control is fitted onto the console:
Finally, the whole lot is left running on test, ensuring that the start-up time is correctly adjusted and that the blower is delivering capacity to cover a sustained chord held on Full Organ; the new starter appears on the wall on the left:
At last! Time to celebrate a job well done by the whole team from Watkins and Watson, with minimum fuss and ahead of the scheduled time:
Thanks once again to all who have put so much time and energy into overseeing this project; Martin Legg and his staff at Watkins and Watson, Stephen Derringer, the Diocesan Organ Advisor, the staff of British Organ Blowers and DRB Engineering, who submitted alternative solutions for consideration, Chris from Ventbrook Ltd., the traffic management company, who oversaw the traffic control to allow the movement of the old blowers out and the new one in, and who was so very helpful in that process, and, not least, the Wardens of Ormskirk Parish Church who have each put their own efforts into ensuring that we got the very best solution possible. Now we have a working instrument again, we can look back to the original part of the restoration process!
Having travelled to Ormskirk from Poole, Martin Legg and his team arrived, ready for the task of dismantling and removing the old blowing plant, running cabling for the new switchgear and installing the new starter, preparing for installation and commissioning on Day 2.
The afternoon was spent dismantling the 1927 blowers, which was a task in itself! The photograph below shows the process partially completed; the blowers are disconnected and the motor and starter have been removed; the blowers themselves, however, remain in situ.
6:00pm saw the road closure in place, with traffic lights restricting the flow on the A570 past the church wall; here, we can see just how little room there is for manoeuvre.
All the movement of equipment had to take place through the door leading straight onto the carriageway; this leads down a tunnel under the churchyard to the blowing chamber beyond:
A mobile crane had to be used to take the weight of the new blower, which finally arrived in its new home:
All is now set for Day 2!
As you will have seen, we have been without a blower since April, and the decision-making process has been an extremely long and tortuous one. However, a decision has now been reached and the order will be placed with Watkins and Watson, Ltd., of Poole, Dorset. This has seemed to be the best option for a variety of reasons, taking into account all the factors concerned. We now have to hope that the work can be completed in time for the licensing of our new Priest-in-Charge, Rev. Pauline Bicknell, on Wednesday 30 August. This had seemed a long time away, but is now looming large!
In short, the work will be carried out over a few days, and will involve removal of the old blowers, replacement by a new, single blower and replacement of the starter system, which had also failed and, like the blower, dates from 1927 at the latest! 90 years isn’t really a bad innings! The new system will involve and continuous soft-start, so that the blower speed will increase gradually, avoiding sudden stresses on the mechanical parts, and being less audibly obvious.
We should point out that each of the other two firms who had tendered for this work (British Organ Blowers, Ltd., of Derby and DBS Engineering of Deeside) had put a huge amount of effort into their considerations and suggestions, and anyone finding themselves in a similar position would be well-advised to approach either or both of them, as well, of course, as Watkins and Watson, when considering their options. This has been a very long process!
Not, strictly speaking, a post about the organ; however, we are delighted to congratulate Tom Bell on his appointment by the Royal College of Organists as Regional Director for the North West of England and the Isle of Man.
Tom, who is currently Organist and Choirmaster at St Michael’s, Chester Square, London (where one of his predecessors was Sir Arthur Sullivan, of Gilbert & Sullivan fame) had his first experiences of the organ here in Ormskirk, where he sang as a chorister and where his father, Philip, served for a time as Organist. The structure of Regional Directors is a new venture by the RCO, which is the premier body of organists in the UK, in an attempt to reach out into the community. Tom has done a lot of outreach work already, is a regular contributor to the Organists’ Review, and is Artistic Director of the London Organ Day, amongst other ventures.
Visit his website at: http://tombell-organist.net/about-tom
We are currently considering three options and hope to make a decision in the very near future. We have received professional advice from three potential top-quality contractors, each of whom has suggested a different solution. All these companies have given us first-rate attention and are worthy of consideration by anyone finding themselves in the same situation! The companies concerned are Watkins & Watson, Ltd., of Poole, British Organ Blowers, Ltd., of Derby and DBS Engineering, Ltd., of Deeside. The first two have long track records of first-rate specialist knowledge and the third has done very successful remedial work on a number of major installations, including Liverpool and Chester Cathedrals.
Our options are as follows:
- Install a single, reconditioned blower, being one which was previously in use for a short period at the church of St Mary, Redcliffe, Bristol, including a new motor and starter. This is the Watkins & Watson suggestion.
- Install two new BOB blowers to replace the existing pair, but running independently, along with new starter arrangements.
- Re-engineer the faulty parts and fit a new motor and switchgear; the suggestion of DRB Engineering.
We are just waiting for the final estimate to come in, after which we hope to be able to proceed.
It just remains to thank all these firms for their kind attention overt this period.