Tea and cakes with ‘Emily’

It’s not every day that a church organ recital is held on a sunny afternoon with the audience gathered round flower bedecked tables, tea and delicious cakes being served in the interval.  Such was the scene at St Mark’s on 2nd June.

This was Lesley Crawley’s idea – to have a fund-raising concert for the Edwardian organ, ‘Emily’, and Pat Love and her Tea Cakes Group were the kind hosts.  Since highlighting this event in the June magazine, two of my organist friends, John Mansfield and Geoff Willis, offered to take part.  I couldn’t have done it without them.  Each played five or six pieces.  My favourite of John’s were Gabriel Fauré’s ‘Sicilienne’, Johnny Dankworth’s ‘Light of the World’ – originally a worship song, and also ‘Gospel Chorus’ which used some of Emily’s louder stops.

We didn’t want to disguise Emily’s imperfections, because we needed to demonstrate that she needs attention!  So we made a feature of the low Eb on the pedals which emits a loud whooshing noise.  Geoff said this was the vacuum cleaner effect!  He had thought of playing a piece by Sir George Dyson, but decided against it!  Instead he played some beautiful pieces including ‘Shenandoah’, a traditional American 19th century folk song.  Geoff also played ‘The Festive Trumpet Tune’ which David German wrote for his own wedding. Emily doesn’t have a trumpet stop, but the oboe stop coupled with a flute stop makes a rich bright sound.

The  gentle flute stops by themselves seemed right for ‘Greensleeves’ and ‘O for the wings of a dove’ which I played.   In between the organ music Bob Shatwell and Margaret Emberson provided the perfect interlude with fiddle and piano music, ending with two reels – “Grumbling old men and growling old women’, (I think that’s the right title!), and, even more rousing, ‘Whisky before Breakfast’!  This dances along at 110 beats per minute – no problem at all for the folk duo.

Among Emily’s problems are very clackety keys – audible to the audience.  And some of the stops make the keys very stiff to play, so she cannot perform to her full glory.  The concert raised the splendid sum of £178 towards her restoration.  Thank you to all who supported us.  One of my organist friends in the audience said afterwards:

“I was glad to come along and hear such a lovely little instrument….it is perfect for that space.  I was also interested to look at the pictures on the wall – all in all, a hidden gem of a building.”

Frances Whewell      

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