I have not been to Newcastle for many years so was especially pleased to be invited to be the guest speaker at the Newcastle and District Society of Organists Annual Dinner. This invitation came from Peter Chatfield, one their Vice Presidents – a very passionate organ person and who, like myself, is very active on social media promoting interest in the instrument.
So, to break the journey from Oxfordshire, I booked a visit to Selby and enjoyed myself there at the Abbey playing our Regent 356 which is covering the period while the Hill pipe organ is being rebuilt, before travelling a little further north to York for the evening.
A late morning start and lunch with relatives in York saw me arrive at Peter’s home by about 4.30. Diner was in a private room at the opulent Northern Counties Club and attended by about 20 members and guests. You will imagine as last years speaker was Dame Gillan Weir I felt a little nervous. This sense of pressure was only enhanced on learning there were two staff members of Harrison & Harrison at the table. Images of Daniel and the Lions Den came to mind!
It all seemed to go well. After the meal was over, the room was pitched into candlelight and so I had to dispense with the well prepared notes. Perhaps a mercy for all concerned as some of the more controversial matters I had in mind were passed over and an inevitably shorter address was the result. Whatever the outcome we all left friends. (Great result!)
The next morning I had a real treat in store
The following morning, Peter took me to St George’s Church Gateshead where he was an organist and…there resides a mighty fine Willis organ.
Playing this organ, as I did for close to an hour, was a real treat. The organ from 1901 is in very fine condition and when at full tilt just the most exhilarating sound. One of those rare big organs where the organist gets the full benefit of the sheer power available. Just as we switched off and got ready to leave I noticed I had not even opened the swell box! So another trip back is a must to get the full benefit of the FFF this organ can deliver.
And for those of you interested it is one of the instruments that James Parsons teaches on, on his trips to Newcastle. So why not book a lesson and also have a chance to hear and play an important part of our great pipe organ heritage from the heyday of British pipe organ building. By the way this is a really friendly and comfortable console. Usually I take at least an hour to feel at home. Not so at St George’s just a playing delight!
Here are some pictures of the console in detail:
Feature image at top of the page is courtesy of 123rf.com. (It features the Millennium Bridge between Newcastle upon Tyne and Gateshead, England, at Night)