Report on visit to Our Lady of Lourdes Wanstead 22/08/2011 by David Sutton

Our Lady of Lourdes Wanstead2It is not often a brand-new instrument appears and not very frequently a new name in the organ-building world. Here we have both. I must confess that up till now I had not heard of Robin Jennings and that has been my misfortune. He has built a lovely organ both to hear and to look at, with it being situated on the gallery in an open position allowing uninterrupted spread of tone. The voicing is by David Frostick and the case design by Geoffrey MacMahon. Robin, David, and Geoffrey have all worked for Manders in their time and this showed.

It was opened by Geoffrey Morgan in March 2011 with an inspiring recital which, according to those who attended, made the organ 'sing'. It indeed 'sang' for us. This new two-manual organ has already lifted the worship into new realms having replaced a woefully inadequate one manual instrument which had been the mainstay of the accompaniment to the Mass for some 50 or so years.

It is confession time for the writer in that this report has been put together some four weeks or so after the event and no notes were taken at the time, so if there are any inaccuracies or omissions please let me know so the record can be put straight! First impressions always last and mine feature the lively, sparkling yet incredibly warm diapason chorus, those flutes (with that husky smoky sound) and the gentle swell undulating strings. All of these were explored by our intrepid band of 14 players and appreciated by our 3 observers. For my part it sounded better downstairs in the body of the church as the tone has been given a chance to expand in the rich acoustic of the building.

Our Lady of Lourdes WansteadWe were joined on this occasion by Robin Coxon of the Enfield Association and he gave us a brilliant exposition of how the cornet rank comes into its own in contrast to the trumpet. Inevitably JSB was performed and Lucia Aiche gave a rendering of a movement from one of the Vivaldi/Bach concertos demonstrating the tutti choruses. We had the full gamut of old and new music showing how amazing this organ is although it is of only modest proportions - Great 6 + Swell 8 + Pedal 4 (and two of these are duplexed from the Swell). It is a true example of the ‘multum in parvo’; in other words how to extract the proverbial quart from a pint pot.

Being a modern instrument, it is conceived in the 'neo-classical' style and tradition. It has mechanical action (and it is good too). However, why do we have to put up with drawstops on square jambs and a pedal board which is to all intents and purposes flat? Fast registration changes are well nigh an impossibility. Anyway this is my personal gripe and I am sure there are some organists out there who positively relish having these challenges.

We spent a whole evening there under the watchful eye of Roderick Sime, CLESO member and the church organist. Roderick, after introducing the instrument, (sadly I was late and missed it!), gave us a fascinating insight into the joys of having such a lovely new organ. Les Ross (who looks after it) was also there to answer technical questions. Les is no stranger to CLESO in that he gave the presentation when we visited the restored Hill organ at Christ Church Wanstead. For those of who required refreshments (and they were delicious!) we were served by three ladies of the parish in the adjoining hall complex. All in all we had a fantastic evening and Roderick, Les and the ladies (and of course the church authorities) are to be thanked most warmly for all the hard work that went into such a great occasion.

And last but not least congratulations to Robin Jennings, David Frostick and Geoffrey MacMahon who between them created the organ. We look forward to learning of more of Robin’s work as I understand to date Wanstead is his magnum opus (for up till now he has made small chamber organs and harpsichords).

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