Review by "Tracker"
Visit to Durham - 26 September 1998

This event was perhaps our most ambitious of the year. Thanks to Jeremy Suter we were able to persuade James Lancelot to play to us on the same day as our visit to Harrison's Organ Works. The day was ably organised by Paul Austen, and as a result we were able to fit in visits to St. Oswald's and St. Margarets's churches as well as evensong at the Cathedral followed by a recital by James Lancelot.

Harrison's works are totally fascinating and are in a custom built works in Meadowfield, three miles from Durham, having moved from their old and inconvenient quarters in Hawthorn Terrace. We were able to see the casting shop, computerised design room, voicing rooms and carpentry shops, conducted round by Mrs Venning, Mark Venning the Director being in America. We were also able to play an organ built during a slack period and no doubt available for purchase for those winning the lottery. Despite Harrison's high prices they are obviously maintaining their quality and market share.

St. Margaret's has a 3 manual Harrison, somewhat boxed in and probably not of the highest Harrison quality. Nevertheless, all the players enjoyed the instrument.

St. Oswald's organ was built by Peter Collins in the classical style. As a single style instrument its repertoire is somewhat restricted, but for Baroque it is excellent, and just the job for those keen on testing out the latest theories on early fingering techniques.

The Chairman at St. Oswald's Church
Colin Rae at St. Oswald's Church

It is always fascinating watching James Lancelot conducting when seated east of the choir stalls. He conducts not only with his hands but also with his expression and indeed his whole being, thus maximising the response of the choir. The suborganist played Bach's G major Fantasia at the end of the service, rapture being slightly modified by his use of the very powerful pedal reeds. After the service James gave us a wonderful recital after welcoming us. Having attempted to play Elgar's Sonata, I now know how I should have played it.

Paul concluded the day with a heart-felt vote of thanks. Thanks to Paul it was a wonderful day, the timings being altogether ideally spaced and all as a result of much letter writing.


Back to Reviews Page