Report on visit to All Saints’ Margaret Street on 09/11/2009 – by David Sutton
On a cold night, about 20 of us assembled at the Butterfield masterpiece of All Saints’ situated not far from the bustle of Oxford Circus – and just round the corner from All Souls’ Langham Place. It was not the first building on the site but, due to the needs of the times, it was felt a good idea to have a building fit for use by one of the leading congregations embracing the Tractarian Movement in the mid 1800s. It was also famous in its time for having a choir school which sadly folded in the middle of the 20th century. It is not over-large as a building and perhaps it can feel rather gloomy as there is much darkish stone in evidence and not many windows. However, we had come to see, hear and play the wonderful four manual Harrison & Harrison which has been fully restored recently.
Harry Bramma, who has had many connections with All Saints over his lengthy service in church music, introduced the instrument and demonstrated its wealth of tone both quiet and loud in an acoustic which was spacious without being resonant. He was at great pains to point out that the Great Harmonics had been restored to its original composition, including that flat 21st, and was a vast improvement on the previous as it now reinforces Harrison’s original concept. After all Arthur knew best! He also showed off the amazing collection of flutes and string tones. The Harrison Reeds – what can one say!
The organ is divided either side of the chancel. The console is tucked away and situated to the north side of the chancel and the organ on that side can only be heard to full effect out in the body of the church so the player has to put his imagination to the test. After Harry’s introduction we all managed to have a go at sampling the delights of this famous instrument.