Saturday June 18th 2016 at 2.30pm.


Our June meeting was a visit to St. Michael’s Church, Tenbury Wells organised by our Honorary Membership Secretary and Director of Music at St Michaels, John Swindells.

Before meeting at the church, we met at The Rose and Crown in Tenbury itself and enjoyed a tasty and leisurely lunch.

Jon Swindells talked about the organ, demonstrating various stops and ended with a performance of the first movement of Elgar’s Organ Sonata.

Whilst we were playing, ladies from the church served tea, coffee and cakes.

The building was consecrated on the 1st October 1856 and was the brain child of the organist, composer and professor of music at Oxford University, Sir F. A G. Ouseley. He intended to create a crucible for the training of church musicians in the form of a choir school. He is buried below the East window. The college succeeded and many of its members went on to become important musical figures, not least one Andrew Nethsingha whose father Lucian held the reigns prior to moving to Exeter cathedral. The choir school closed in 1985 leaving the church to the care of a small village community that has since toiled long and hard to keep this mini cathedral open, with the support of not least the Ouseley Trust which was set up with the proceeds of the sale of the college.

The original organ was built by the firm Flight and installed in 1856. It included an “en-chamade” tuba mirabilis with a specification drawn up by Ouseley himself. This organ is listed on NPOR as K00980. The spec. is worth reading. This organ was damaged by dodgy roofing which caused the organ to become virtually unplayable by 1866. Ouseley turned to Thomas Harrison of Rochdale to completely rebuild the organ. Here starts a very sorry saga which rumbled on until 1873 when finally Ouseley dispensed of a near bankrupt Harrison’s services and engaged Henry Willis to take the organ down, use the best parts of the original instrument but made to speak in his own trademark way. This organ is listed as K00982.

From this point, the organ’s history is unremarkable save for the enclosure of the tuba into the solo box in 1895. We know of no rationale behind this and the tuba now is certainly not “en-chamade” and in fact is quieter than the great reeds! The current organist tends to use it as a chorus reed for the Great in English type music as it has roundness and versatility with the box. The great reeds are famous for their bite and aggression which is more suitable for the French school. The 1950s saw the lowering of the pitch to standard, and balanced swell pedals with one stop change on the great. [N03730] The 1970s saw the obligatory “cornet separee” created on the choir organ plus a few other changes which gives the instrument we have today: [N14871].

Nicholson’s carried out the renewal of the leather sound board power motors and upper concussion bellows plus the cleaning and making good of in particular the choir and great pipework. The college old boys donated over £7,000 for this. The organ retains its wholly pneumatic mechanism and now all leather parts are in good condition except for the inaccessible parts of the pedal organ and the solo “booster box” which needs attention and means we have a few solo notes off. The pipework of the swell is due for cleaning, probably. The organ has divisional pistons only which can be still adjusted using the original and unique system.



Organ details – St. Michael’s Collegiate Church, Tenbury Wells:

The details in the NPOR number N14871 are:

Pedal:               32,16,16,16,16,102/3, 8,8,4,V,16,8.

Solo                 8,8,4,8,8,8.

Swell                16,8,8,8,8,4,4,2,V,16,8,8,4.

Great                16,16,8,8,8,8,4,4,4,22/3,2,III,II,8,4.

Choir                8,8,4,4,22/3,2,13/5,III,8.