Visit to Organs at Broughton and Longridge
25th November 2006
Review by Tracker

Seven of us, imbued with greater than average dedication made the long trip to north of Preston.

RSCM members may have seen the article on Broughton PC Choir consisting of around 30 boys with men and two organists. A custom built choir vestry costing £20,000 and a four manual digital organ costing £44,000 have been installed with the original Ainsworth three manual pipe organ also available. Looking at administration notices it was obvious that the choir was a really going concern involving activities such as tours of the Isle of Man. John Catterall, the Director of Music, made us welcome. He explained that the Ainsworth organ was insufficiently flexible to accompany the width of the choir's repertoire and to provide the opportunity to play large scale voluntaries and recitals. A significant factor in their success over many years is the access to three primary schools in a seemingly well-to-do area.

The visit became de facto a competition between the pipe and electronic instruments and the CSO verdict was that the Ainsworth was musically the more satisfying. The chairman rapidly searched among the 92 electronic stops to find the Tuba Magna hoping to raise the dead in the churchyard, but was rewarded with a rather apologetic muted horn.

Refreshed with coffee and sandwiches we made our way to Longridge after thanking John Catterall for sacrificing his Saturday morning on our behalf.

The village of Longridge possesses and imposing cathedral scale church with a three manual Will 1894 organ of exquisite quality. The tonal structures were all wonderfully clear water rather than the muddy water descriptive of inferior instruments. Nigel Spooner, the organist, demonstrated the organ with a virtuoso performance of Dupré's Noel Variations, itemising the registration of each variation on a hand-out. Only the chairman brought music so he had a field day dredging through his favourite addictions including Jongen's Sonata Eroica, during the other members huddled for protection at the back of the church. Chizzer and Stephen extemporised, which is the best way to explore the organ's sounds.

Perhaps two organs might seem too few for such a long trip but they filled a relaxing time very well in a day restricted by the travelling time involved. As we get to know our local organs, the need to travel out of the county may become more pressing.

Members present were Alan White, Colin Rae, John Scott, Chizzer Childs, Stephen Oates, and Adrian and Pam Self. We were all grateful to Alan for organising the event, taking advantage of his knowledge of organs south of Cumbria.

Nigel Spooner studied at Truro and Wells cathedrals and Bath Abbey, reaching the finals of the St. Alban's International Organ Competition. He is a chemistry graduate but is now freelance musician.

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