Visit to the City of London School on 02/03/2015 by David Sutton

City of London SchoolIt was a dark and starry night when we visited the City of London School. Situated as it is on the banks of the Thames, the site of the school is spectacularly placed with St Paul’s Cathedral as a back-drop, a lit-up OXO Tower opposite and the new Blackfriars station at the side. The Thames shimmered with all the reflected coloured light. We were so fortunate to see it by night and it must be said the lighting manager had got it absolutely right. It was the best of weather too, being clear and bright with no rain.

But spectacular as it was outside, we were there for the 1982 Walker organ in the Great Hall. The instrument is situated on the rear of the platform and dominates that whole area of space with a case which shows off the new instrument including its trumpet en chamade. The console is attached and is in full view of all the seats in the hall which presumably are of sufficient number to house the vast majority of students at one go. The space is big and the organ is voiced to suit. So the scene was set for an evening which will not be easily forgotten.

The school’s head of music could not be with us so we had the instrument to ourselves for the whole evening. Ed Kemp-Luck introduced us to the organ with a short talk and demonstration of its tonal colours and then it was an open console. Knowing what was in store, we had yet again a very good turn-out with 23 individuals including 19 who had indicated a wish to play and explore its tonal resources. We had offerings of J S Bach (to delve into the neo-classical spectrum of stops) through to “high Victorian” and beyond. This showed the instrument was very capable of dealing with extremes of expression. The key touch is beautifully light and responsive so that I could not tell if it was mechanical or electro-pneumatic. It really could have been either for me!

We managed to get everyone who wanted to play onto the bench. There were three “first-timers” – i.e. new members attending their first event. It is hoped this evening proved for them a sufficient whetting of the appetite to come and support our future events. Our “first-timers” had a go and very brave they were too and gave us a lot of pleasure.  As mentioned previously, the console is very exposed and nerves were suitably conquered when playing to us in that gold-fish bowl environment.

The school welcomed us right royally. We were given facilities next to the hall in a comfortably furnished room with tea, coffee, mineral water and biscuits on tap and copious supplies of literature describing the school and its organ. Not only that, but somehow some glasses and bottles of wine materialised as well as the evening progressed. For all this we have to thank the bursar, Barry Darling, who made us so welcome. It is not often we have such good fortune to have a warm venue equipped with an organ of considerable note and furnished with refreshments to gladden the heart and modern toilet facilities. We had all three that night!

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