Gloucestershire Organists’ Associa�on

Chairman’s report to the AGM, Saturday 17th February 2024

Simon Gibson – Chairman

I have enjoyed my first year as Chairman of the Associa�on and would like to offer my
thanks to our friends here at All Saints, firstly, for pu�ng up with me doing my prac�ce
over the last few weeks and, secondly, for being such kind hosts this a�ernoon. We are
very grateful.
The last year has seen some interes�ng and rewarding visits to hear and play a wide range
of organs, something which is at the heart of what we as members enjoy doing!
Last March, we spent a lovely day in Bristol, visi�ng St Monica’s Chapel with its Willis organ
and a magnificent acous�c, followed by a very good lunch in Cli�on, before going to Cli�on
College Chapel for the a�ernoon. We were given a brief history of the Chapel organ by
James Drinkwater, followed by a fine recital played by one of the sixth form students, before
members got to play the Harrison and Harrison organ themselves.
April saw us travelling east to visit Radley College, just south of Oxford, where we had lunch
in the local pub before mee�ng in the school chapel for a talk by our host, Tim Morris, who
has been the school organist for some years and who oversaw the plan to put in a new
Nicholson organ, completed in 2022. He explained the long planning process and the ways
that Nicholson’s got round the issues of the building swallowing the bass frequencies by
having a larger than usual Pedal department. He played us the Fanfare by Mathias before
members were given the chance to go up to the lo� to play the new instrument. There had
been several problems a�er installa�on, but Tim was effusive in his praise for the staff from
Nicholson’s who sorted everything to the school’s sa�sfac�on in the end. Members
enjoyed the sound and the feel of the organ. It makes a very grand sound in the chapel
and is a fabulous addi�on to Radley’s musical life, encouraging new organ students in the
In May, a smaller than average group arrived in Worcester to play the organ in the central
St Andrew’s Methodist Church – a large Nicholson organ hidden behind a screen in the
rather dead acous�c of a modern first floor building. A�er lunch in Cote, we walked the
short distance to the Hun�ngdon Hall, where there is lovely two-manual organ originally
from 1840, rebuilt by the local Nicholson firm in 1895,situated on the upper gallery, behind
the stage. Originally a Methodist chapel, hence the wraparound gallery, it is now a concert
hall. Sadly, it seems that the organ is rarely played, but members enjoyed exploring its
lovely range of stops. As well as some beau�ful quieter colours, it has a decent tu� and
one could imagine a concert of some Handel organ concertos with the strings on the stage
below. Thanks to James Lancelot for arranging this visit.

In June, we went to Oxford for our annual pilgrimage and played two wonderful organs in
Keble and Magdalen College chapels. It was a glorious sunny day, the city was teeming
with visitors and a good number of members met at Keble College chapel, where their
senior organ scholar, Dan Greenway, gave us a brief overview of the four manual Tickell
organ from 2011. Despite somewhat cramped condi�ons in the lo�, high up on one wall,
members enjoyed hearing the organ in the resonant chapel as well as playing it – the
consensus being that it is easy to play at the console and certainly fills the chapel with
sound! A�er a speedy lunch, we reconvened at Magdalen College chapel, where Mark
Williams and his senior Organ Scholar, Romain Bornes, gave us a fascina�ng demonstra�on
of the new Eule organ. It is unique in the UK and quite different from most Oxbridge
instruments. However, it sounds magnificent in the chapel and has a wealth of colours and
varia�on within its specifica�on.
For the Students Recital in July, we were grateful to Tewkesbury Abbey for hos�ng us.
Unfortunately, we were only able to hear one pupil, Theo Moun�ord, who nonetheless
gave us a short but exci�ng recital on the Milton organ, enthusias�cally received by our
apprecia�ve members as well as several Abbey visitors. We are returning there this July
and hope to have a few other student players including from the Abbey’s musical forces.
A�er our summer break, we travelled to Usk in Wales in September for a visit to play the
extraordinary Gray and Davidson organ in St Mary’s Priory Church. Originally built and
housed in Llandaff Cathedral from 1861 – 1900, it was sold to Usk and has lived there ever
since. It was restored about twenty years ago by Nicholson’s and is in good condi�on.
Being a cathedral instrument, it has a very comprehensive specifica�on, with a wealth of
so�er strings, flutes and diapasons, as well as good principal choruses and an almighty 8’
Trumpet en Chamade on the Great! With its painted case and display pipes, it makes an
imposing statement before you play it. Everyone who was there and played, agreed that it
was magnificent. I have been lucky enough to return on a few occasions to play for services
and it is an absolute delight to play once you get your head around the La�n numbering on
the stop knobs! Thanks again to James Lancelot for organising this visit.
James also organised our October trip, when we travelled north to Bromsgrove to play the
Italian Tamburini organ in All Saints church, da�ng from 1981. We were welcomed by the
young organist, Ollie, who is looking to raise some money to overhaul the organ. It is a
neo-Baroque instrument with some very bright voicing in the upper work, but which has
some lovely so�er stops too. A�er a pub lunch, we made our way to the estate church of
St Bartholomew in Tardebigge. We were made very welcome and enjoyed the lovely two
manual Nicholson organ from 1879. It makes a beau�ful sound in the church and is kept
in very good condi�on by the local congrega�on.
November saw our annual lunch, this year in the Royal George Hotel in Birdlip. There was
a very good turnout, and we enjoyed each other’s company and some hearty food. Thanks
to Mike Eddy for the organisa�on.

Our last trip of the year was just up the road to Pershore Abbey in January. We met for a
lovely lunch first at the Angel Hotel, before spending the a�ernoon in the Abbey, playing
and listening to the wonderful new Ruffa� organ. We had about sixteen members who
played during the a�ernoon and I think everyone enjoyed their �me there. Our host, Judy
Dale, brought out their paper archive which gave the history of the organs in the Abbey.
They are rightly proud of their new instrument, and it will surely be an asset for years to
Future events are in the works and your commitee is looking to promote the organ in as
many ways as possible. On interna�onal organ day in April, we are hoping to organise a
Come and Play the Organ session at a church Cheltenham. As details become known, we
will let members know and may well ask you for some help on the day.
Spreading the word about the organ generally is vital if we are to keep atrac�ng younger
players to the instrument. Spreading the word about the GOA and becoming a member
also helps this cause, so please do make the effort to evangelize about our associa�on to
friends and family. Remember, you don’t have to play the organ to be a member!
Please also feel free to let me or Andrea know of any organ-related events or online videos
etc that members might be interested in. I listened to the new RCO Organ podcast this
week – it is well worth an hour of your �me.
Looking ahead, the exci�ng news about the new organ in Gloucester Cathedral means that
we can look forward to hearing it in a couple of years’ �me. Your commitee is hoping to
organise a visit to Nicholson’s during the building of the organ to see the progress being
I would like to finish by thanking my fellow commitee members, par�cularly James
Lancelot, our past Chairman, but also Mike Eddy, our Treasurer, and Andrea Board, our
indispensable Secretary! Finally, thankyou to all of you, our members, for your con�nued
support. It is much appreciated.