“Oh I do like to be behind the keyboard”

Organ builders Andrew Cooper and John Davey

This is the organ at St Michael’s in Lewes, where we are moving towards the completion of our rebuild. Andrew and John removed much of the organ in early September to their workshop on the Isle of Wight. The two manuals you see here have been refurbished. The buttons below each keyboard are pistons. Each piston selects one or more stops, so the  five pistons under each manual allows the organist to ‘bring out’ a particular selection of stops on that particular keyboard. OK so far?

There used to be just 6 pistons below each manual and now there are more: six extra General pistons below the Swell manual, and two extra below the Great manual. Using these 6 General pistons (3 at each end of the Swell pistons), the organist can make any selection of stops on the whole organ. These are all controlled by a new computer system with 9 different channels, so 9 different organists can each set up their own choices, or I can just be greedy and have the lot! (very useful when setting up an organ recital).

Computerised piston system

I don’t expect many of you to be overly excited by the picture above, but John suggested I take a photo of this as you won’t be able to see it all when it’s installed!

And next: the newly re-leathered wind chests sitting behind the organ console.

Newly re-leathered wind chests

And here’s what they looked like before: Notice all the patched up leather, and dirt!

Wind chests before refurbishment

And finally, here’s the Pedalboard. I wish I had taken a photo of it before. Most organists complained at how over-sensitive the pedals were (you only had to breathe on them and they might play). Now they have been re-set, cleaned up, and the ‘black notes’ have been given lovely Rosewood caps (they were plain Beech before) and don’t they look smart.

Christmas Song Recital

You may remember that Soprano Ruth Kerr and I were due to give three recitals in November and December. The two November recitals were obviously postponed, but we will still be performing our Christmas recital at St Anne’s Church, Lewes on Friday 11 December at 6pm.

Get your tickets now! Because that recital is sold out, Ruth and I are repeating it the following Friday 18 December, same time, same place. Tickets are £10. We can only have 35 in the audience, so if you would like to come, please email kerr_ruth@hotmail.com or if you prefer me nick@nickhoughton.org.uk

Our programme will include some Christmas carols, well-known Christmas soprano solos including Adolph Adam: O holy night, piano duets including Leroy Anderson’s Sleigh Ride, and even a surprise bass soloist!! It’s a really varied and entertaining programme. Although I’m a very serious person myself (!) Ruth is really lively and an engaging personality and this is going to be good event…I hope.

Choir rehearsals in December

It’s looking as if socially distanced choir rehearsals can resume on 3 December. I will be leading Lewes Chamber Choir, East Sussex Community Choir and New Sussex Opera meetings. The East Sussex Community Choir has just held its first AGM, remotely by email (it’s amazing what you can do in a lockdown). Members unanimously voted to adopt the new constitution and elected their committee, so we are now officially a newly independent choir. All being well, our next concert will be in Lewes Town Hall on Saturday 26 June 2021 featuring Dvorak: Mass in D as well as a variety of shorter pieces.

And talking of Dvorak: I heard a movement of his lovely String Serenade on the radio yesterday and felt moved to listen to the rest later in the day. So here’s my recommended performance. Sit back for half an hour and relax (oops, that sounds very ClassicFM). Dvorak: Serenade for Strings

In a couple of weeks, I’ll let you know about our Lewes Singers Christmas Concert!

Keep well.





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