26th – 28th August 2014 - Writtle College, Chelmsford
The organ advisers were warmly welcomed to the Diocese of Chelmsford by the Archdeacon on Chelmsford. The diocese, now one of the largest by population in England, celebrates in centenary in 2014. It was good to be here in the centenary year. The diocese includes the Olympic Park in Stratford, and rolling countryside. The churches are as diverse, with some congregations with a worship group and some using an organ. A third of the church buildings are post war, reflecting the massive population growth in those years.
Paul Velluet gave an insightful illustrated talk on post-war reordering and liturgical use of organs. He used examples from the Anglican and Catholic traditions to show how the centrality of the altar in the liturgy in the post 50 or 60 years has driven new design and reordering. Clifton Cathedral was used as a good example of the relationship between the gathered congregation, the altar, choir and organ. All well related to each other, with the altar central. The linear approach to liturgical space was radically changed at St Stephen Walbrook when the central Gerald Moor altar was introduced in 1972, and a great many other churches and cathedrals have worked to place the altar at the heart of the worship.
The organ, the most expensive furnishing to relocate, does not always keep up with the changes, sometimes left remote at the east end, occasionally with the choir singing from behind the altar. Where a new organ is provided moving it back to the west end, such as at Odiham, is a good way of placing it close to the congregation. Where this is combined with west end choir stalls, such as St Peter Eaton Square, the result can be excellent.
Dr David Knight brought the conference up to date with the current activities of the Church Buildings Council, and his presentation can be found here.
In the evening a visit to Chelmsford Cathedral allowed an opportunity to see and hear how two organs, one at the east, one the west, could support the choir and congregation, arranged either side of a central communion table.
The conference visited three churches to see recently restored organs. At Thaxted we heard and worshipped together with the restored H C Lincoln organ, before learning about its history and restoration. Great care had been take with the restoration to retain the original sound, and nothing was done to the pipes beyond essential repairs. At Little Bardfield Fr Robert Beaken welcomed us to his recently restored church and organ, the latter in a splendid Renatus Harris case. Finally we saw the Bevington barrel organ at Barnston. This organ had not worked for many years and the congregation had considered its disposal. Good advice from the DAC Organ Adviser and good work by a local organ builder has seen the organ restored to full working order, and used every week by the choice of the parish.
Dr David Frostick, Chelmsford DAC Organ Adviser and a leading pipe voicer, gave a practical session on pipework, with sample pipes and a voicing machine so that we could hear for ourselves what could (and could not) be done with both new and old pipes. A skilled voicer will get the best out of the pipe, but the constraints of the original design, dimensions and quality will dictate what is possible, and this was ably demonstrated by Dr Frostick.