Music and Organ

The Music

St Bartholomew's is well known for its musical tradition. At the 9.30am Family Mass on Sundays, our congregation can join in with hymns taken from "Liturgical Hymns Old & New" (published by Kevin Mayhew) and also particpate in the Gloria, Sanctus, Benedictus and Agnus Dei as set to music by Dom Gregory Murray in his "New People's Mass".

At the 11.00 Solemn High Mass, the music becomes much more elaborate and the Mass settings consist of nearly forty Masses by mainly Viennese composers - Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven and Schubert. This is a musical tradition for which St Bartholomew's has been famous for well over a century. There is also congregational participation in hymns taken mainly from the English Hymnal.

The repertoire of Masses sung by our extremely competent non-professional choir includes 10 by Haydn, including the six great Masses that he was inspired to compose towards the end of his life, 13 of the Masses that Mozart wrote in his late teens, the great Mass in C by Beethoven and the six Masses that Schubert wrote at various stages in his life. See The Choral Music for a complete list of our repertoire.

In many respects, this is a unique tradition, with some of the most inspirational church music that has ever been composed ideally complementing the Anglo-Catholic liturgy of St Bartholomew's, with its elaborate vestments and incense.

It takes a great deal of effort to maintain a musical tradition of this complexity and we are always looking for competent singers who would like the opportunity of learning a large repertoire in such a splendid setting - and there is the opportunity for solo work.

Our Organist and Director of Music is always happy to hear from singers who would like to join us and you can telephone him as shown on the Contacts page.

 

The Organ of St Bartholomew's

 

 

The first organ in the church was a three-manual Holdich situated in the chancel to the left of the High Altar. There are photographs and a sketch on display in the church showing this instrument. It was replaced in 1901 by an organ built by J W Walker & Sons and placed on a structure part way down the nave approximately where the present pulpit lies. This proved to be an unsightly and impracticable location and, in 1906, a west-end gallery was constructed and the organ removed to that location.

 

 



St Bartholomews Organ

 

 

        Tonally, the organ has always been considered a "noble" instrument, the acoustics of the building
        playing an important part in the grand effect. Although it lacked upperwork at the time of its 
        
original construction, not unusual in a smallish organ at the time, it did possess the luxury
        of two 16' open metal ranks, one each for the Great and Pedal. These pipes now form part
        of the casefronts.



 

 

There is a degree of definition and a quality of voicing that mark the instrument as a thoroughbred and an aristrocrat! Its most unusal original feature was an incredible blowing system with flashing lights, heaving bellows and sets of carbon rods being raised and lowered into earthenware pots of distilled water. This was quite an old-fashioned device even in 1906 and yet two of these quaint pieces of apparatus (one for the Swell side and one for the Great side) continued to function until 1974 when a Discus fanblower was installed.

Over the years, very little work has been done to the organ other than routine maintenance and tuning, although it was cleaned in 1952. By 1977, considering the enormous use of the organ, it was nothing short of miraculous that the pneumatic action had remained so prompt, a tribute to the original builders. Problems associated with this type of action increased at an alarming rate and it was decided in 1977 to  overhaul the instrument completely and a wonderfully prompt electro-pneumatic system was installed, with solid state coupling and switching. Various tonal alterations were made, including new Mixtures to the Great and Swell.

Further alterations were made in 1990 when the main bellows were taken out of commission and continental regulators installed. All in all, what had been a very fine organ became a superb one in all respects - ideal for its prime purpose of accompanying the services and immensely satisfying for the reciltalist and the listener.

Click for Organ Specification