Back in the mid 2000’s before the financial crisis turned the world on its head I used to enjoy a monthly trip into London for lessons with Catherine Ennis at her wonderful church in the heart of the City of London. It was a most enjoyable ‘day off’ and a visit that I always looked forward to.
It eventually led to my ABRSM Grade VII exam, (distinction 128/150) that I also took at St Lawrence Jewry. Probably I would have carried on to try to climb the summit of Grade VIII but Catherine shortly thereafter gave up teaching and when the financial roof fell in on business I had to concentrate a little more on work than was the case before.
My favourite London organ
I have not played a great many London organs; St Paul’s Cathedral, Westminster Abbey, St Botolph Aldgate, St Brides’ Fleet Street, St John’s Smiths Square and St Giles Cripplegate before the recent rebuild are actually the sum total. So when I say that the Klais organ at St Lawrence Jewry is absolutely my favourite London organ you need to take the comment in that context.
I can say with confidence that it is by any standards a magnificent tracker instrument that is a delight to play. When I visited it again last Friday I passed a really happy 75 minutes just enjoying the whole experience of sound, action and building. Hopefully the few passing through the church did not mind the odd wrong note and for most of the time I avoided anything too loud.
Organists visiting fine instruments in my experience all too often rush to explore the solo Tuba (this Klais does not have one!) and all the louder registrations which is perhaps understandable but unless the playing is of a high standard this can be very distressing for any church visitor, so I tend to keep away from that and enjoy the more ethereal sounds a really good organ and church acoustic can deploy.
My old friend the Klais organ
This organ is just so comfortable it really brings out the best of any person sat at the bench. Some instruments take me hours to get comfortable. The Klais however after a gap of many years just welcomed me back like a very old friend and I found myself making hand registration changes while sight reading, a challenge that I do not normally rise too.
The console too is a work of art with lovely cabinetry skills demonstrated in the music desk and key cheeks. These are only little details adding very little to the cost of manufacture but adding so much to the enjoyment of sitting at the console. When a console looks this good it’s as if it is inviting you to try harder when playing.
The organ also has a complete ‘antiphonal’ division in the form of a separate instrument in the north side chapel. This ‘Commonwealth Organ’ has its own single manual and flat straight pedal board.
Thank you Cathy for entertaining my return visit and of course for having the foresight to commission this wonderful instrument for the church.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.