Report on CLESO visit to Cambridge on 04/10/2008 - by Chris Morris

IMG00167What an amazing experience we had in Cambridge on Saturday 4 October.

Around 30 people attended our joint event with the Cambridge Association for a magical tour around this historic city.

We started off at Queen's college - a beautiful chapel and organ to match. Organ Scholar Alex Breedon introduced us to the organ which stood majestically on the west gallery and we were then invited to play. The organ is a three manual Binns built in 1892 and restored by Harrison & Harrison in 2002 whilst maintaining the original tonal scheme.

Then, after a period of free time in the town for lunch, we were treated to the two organs of Great St Mary's, where we were welcomed by organist and director of music, Sam Hayes.

IMG00179The 'University organ', so called because it is maintained by the University, is the original organ situated in the West gallery. It is a three manual instrument originally by Father Smith with sundry work by various builders and rebuilt by W. Hill & Son in 1870 and Hill Norman & Beard in 1963. The latest work is by Mander in 1995, but it was a real privilege to play some ranks made in 1698!

IMG00183After playing this, we were invited to try the modern Kenneth Jones 'parish church' organ (1991) situated in the south chancel. Again a three manual comprehensive instrument which provides good support for choir singing although, sadly, does not project that well into the church due to its position.

Then there was the incredible finale to the day - the visit to King's.

It was a huge honour to be invited to observe choir practice and we were made to feel so welcome by Stephen Cleobury. It's not often you get to see the best choir in the world being put through their places by a supreme choir trainer. It also demonstrated that there is a point to spending years sweating over transposition exercises as Stephen asked his organ scholar to transpose pretty well everything!

Then there was the choral evensong service. It was a real sight to see probably around 500 people queuing all around the quadrangle to get in! And what a treat we all had in the very atmospheric candlelit chapel. 

The psalms were sung sublimely, the setting by Rubbra was fantastically exciting and then there was the anthem - a masterpiece by the contemporary composer MacMillan. The acoustic of King's is so perfect for modern music - the sounds blend so beautifully together to create a spine tingling atmosphere.

The perfect day was then completed by Stephen Cleobury's organ recital which demonstrated the quality of the King's organ.

Our thanks go to David Sutton who put so much work into devising the day, liaising with the Cambridge authorities and putting in place all the arrangements to make it such a resounding success.

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