I was delighted to receive an invitation to attend a gathering of organ and church music enthusiasts for a special evensong service at the Chapel Royal St James’s Palace in November. I had been there many years before when Joseph Nolan was playing for a BBC 3 broadcast evensong to act as page turner.
Unexpectedly I was called into action in the pipe chamber when a quite loud rank decided to cypher. I still await my appointment as clerk to the pipe chamber!
Acoustics a challenge at Chapel Royal St James’s Palace
While a beautiful chapel dating from the 1500’s it has a brutal acoustic for singers and organist alike. It is completely dead and this provides a special challenge for performance of Howells as was included in this service.
Much of the service was played by a recent YOST scholar Christopher Too who rose to the daunting challenge brilliantly. But then you might expect that from a young man who has also just gone up to King’s Cambridge with an organ scholarship.
Previous musicians based at St James’s include Henry Purcell and William Byrd who serve to underline the amazing history associated with this ancient place of worship.
Young Organ Scholars’ Trust (YOST)
YOST was formed in 2013 to support the next generation of church musicians funding lessons for those that otherwise could not afford them. There are approximately 20 current students receiving assistance and the trust hope to be able in future years to increase this to 40. You can find out more about it on the YOST facebook page.
After a fine service, in which the boys of the Chapel dress in the fine Tudor costume we are used to seeing at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day, we had a short walk to the Oxford & Cambridge Club on Pall Mall where a small private reception was laid on.
There I bumped into old friends from Selby Abbey and had a long talk with Christopher Too and was pleased to learn that while he has perhaps the finest of all UK pipe organs at his disposal he also gets a lot of use from our Envoy 23-S in his room. He did confess that he would like to have a 32 ft stop on the pedal department so I shall see him in the new year with my laptop to add it for him! Perhaps he will also let me see the new console in the chapel? One can live in hope.
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.