The London Organs Day will be an enthralling experience for both pipe-organ devotees and for the merely interested. London has an outstanding wealth of historic and modern instruments – no other city in the world comes close – and four very fine examples will be heard today, played by four excellent organists.
At all the venues you hear music ideally suited to the organ in that particular church and, by the end of the day, will have enjoyed a cross section of the repertoire which is the widest of any instrument, stretching back to medieval times and continuously augmented by today’s composers.
Each recital is preceded by a discussion that explains what is special about the instrument and says something about the music to be played. The interviewer throughout will be Simon Williams, deputy director of the Royal College of Organists and director of music at St George’s Hanover Square, a prized post because it was G.F. Handel’s parish church.
All the organs are located in historic churches of great architectural and historical interest. It is not by coincidence that our selection is clustered around the Central Line: the day involves one journey by Tube, but otherwise progress between recitals and lunch will be on foot, a total distance of under two miles spread over seven short walks. You are welcome, however, to substitute a taxi for the tube (at your expense).
St Margaret Lothbury
Organist: Richard Townend
Tucked behind the Bank of England, St Margaret Lothbury was rebuilt after the Great Fire under the direction of Christopher Wren. Relatively unscathed during the Blitz, it has one of the most fully furnished church interiors of the era, including carvings by Grinling Gibbons; many pieces found a home here during the wave of church demolitions in the 19th century.
Built by George England in 1801, the organ is an exceptional survival of a classical instrument. Though restored in 1984, it retains much of its original pipe work. It has two manuals and pedals and, with 21 speaking stops is the smallest of the four main instruments we hear today.
All Saints Margaret Street
Organist: Jeremiah Stephenson
Historically and artistically, All Saints Margaret Street is arguably the most important Gothic Revival church in London. Building began in 1850 to a design by William Butterfield under the scrutiny of the Tracterian wing of the Church of England for whom it was intended to be a model modern church. The red and black brick exterior harbours an interior of unsurpassed richness.
The organ is a superb four-manual Harrison and Harrison instrument with 66 speaking stops, built in 1910 and restored it 2003. It retains the best of the pipe work of its predecessor, the considerably smaller Hill organ. Though as big as those found in most cathedrals, it sounds intimate when played quietly, though monumental when loud.
St George’s Hanover Square
Organist: Simon Williams
St George’s is the parish church of Mayfair, built 1721–24 to the designs of John James. The classical front with six great Corinthian columns was innovatory and highly influential, and the Grinling Gibbons reredos frames a ‘Last Supper’ by William Kent. The interior was modified in 1894 under the direction of Sir Arthur Blomfield and was splendidly refurbished in 2010. George Frideric Handel was a regular worshipper at St George’s, which is home to the annual London Handel Festival.
Gerard Smith, nephew of Bernard Smith, built the first organ in 1725, but this was rebuilt several times – in 1761 by John Snetzler, and in 2012 by Richards, Fowkes & Co. of Ooltewah, Tennessee. This has its stylistic roots in the magnificent 17th- and 18th-century organs of North Germany and Holland. There are three manuals and pedals and 46 stops.
10.30am, St Margaret Lothbury.
c. 5.15pm, St George’s Hanover Square.
£215. This includes lunch and refreshments as well as exclusive admission to the four recitals.
There are walks at a leisurely pace of, at most, 10 minutes (waiting at pedestrian crossings included).
Maximum of 80 participants.
We will return the full amount if you notify us 22 or more days before the event. We will retain 50% if cancellation is made within three weeks and 100% if within three days. Please put your cancellation in writing to email@example.com. We advise taking out insurance in case of cancellation and recommend that overseas clients are also covered for possible medical and repatriation costs.