The builder of the organ currently in Ormskirk Parish Church was one William Denman, a former apprentice of Robert Postill of York, who himself had previously looked after the old organ in Ormskirk. Postill had been a major player in the organ-building industry based in York, had rebuilt the organ in Durham Cathedral and built one for the chapel in Blenheim Palace, and had also built a number of instruments around our area, including St John’s, Burscough Bridge, Westhead Lathom St James and what is now Lord Street West URC in Southport. Denman would have worked with him on these and this is the most likely reason for his being appointed to build the new organ in Ormskirk.
Dr. Max Elliott, a former President of the York and District Organists’ Association, completed his PhD thesis on the organ builders of York and has presented a fascinating and detailed online discourse on the life and works of William Denman to that Association, which can be found on YouTube.
Please do have a look! It can be found by clicking the link below:
Mark Jones, who hails from the neighbouring parish of Aughton Christ Church, has recently gained the Associateship of the North & Midlands School of Music (ANMSM) in Organ Performance. Mark is a pupil of Dr Colin Porter, who regularly plays the organ at Ormskirk Parish Church for funerals and who travels to Ormskirk Parish Church to teach him.
Mark tells us:
“I recently became a member of North and Midlands School of Music. A few days after my fourteenth birthday, I sat the Associate Diploma in Organ Performance, at Ormskirk Parish Church in Lancashire. I was quite nervous, as this was my first organ exam. Chris Pilsbury, the Academic Registrar, tried to put me at ease and talked me through the assessment process.
The church was very cold and I had to warm my hands with hand warmers in between playing my pieces of music. At the end Chris discussed the music with me and told me that I had passed. I later received an encouraging report from him.
I wouldn’t have achieved this without Dr Colin Porter (Chairman, NMSM). I started organ lessons with Colin when I was eight years old, as an organ student with a bursary from the Lythgoe Fund of the Liverpool Organists’ Association. I couldn’t reach the pedals then. I’ve grown a bit now. Colin has been a great encouragement to me and an amazing teacher.
I hope to do the Licentiate Diploma in the future.”
The assessment took the form of a recital at an appropriate level of difficulty. Mark’s programme included the following pieces, with a short viva voce with the examiner at the end:
March of the Priests (from ‘The Enchanted Flute’) – W A Mozart, arr. Dr CWP
Prelude in D from ‘L’Organiste Moderne‘ – L J A Lefebure-Wely
Tuba Tune – C S Lang
Air & Gavotte – S. Wesley
Prelude & Fugue in E Minor (BWV 533) – J S Bach
Andante – T Mee Pattison
Allegro – T Mee Pattison
I am hoping that Mark will be able to perform a recital at the church at some point in the future.
Mark recorded his performance, which is available on YouTube at:
Please note that, due to precautions being taken to slow the spread of the current Coronavirus outbreak, the Church of England has suspended all formal public services indefinitely, in support of social distancing measures. We hope to be back to normal as soon as possible!
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
Cherry Tree Carol
And the Glory of the Lord (Messiah)
For unto Us a child is born (Messiah)
O Holy Night (solo)
Angelus ad Virginem
Sans Day Carol
Up, good Christen Folk
Rejoice and be Merry
Tomorrow shall be my Dancing Day
Masters in this Hall
The Christmas Song
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.
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:
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!