As I write these notes, there is a curious “filler” on the “World at One” on Radio 4 where the interviewer is, rather bizarrely, asking two experts which was the better composer, Handel or Bach?

I stopped washing-up and listened intently, to find that the premise for the question was simply that they were born in the same year near each other in Germany! The simple answer that both were geniuses in their own way, but as President Trump was not particularly newsworthy that day, the interview went on at some length.

Bach was employed by the church for the greater part of his life and was extremely devout (his bible is littered with comments and commentaries in Bach's own hand) whereas Handel was more of an entrepreneur making a vast amount of money from opera (which particularly suited the English taste at the time), and when he was bankrupted by masterminding bigger and better productions to counteract his rival, he turned his skills to writing oratorios (i.e. operas without the expense of lighting, stage props, costumes etc.) and was eminently successful. Both composers' legacies are truly wonderful; the settings of the Passions (St John and St Matthew) by Bach and Handel's “Messiah” have no equal – never mind the 100's of other works written by these two industrious composers.

It strikes me that it is difficult to make the case for the any one of the “great” composers to be better than the other, as, at the end of the day, it's a matter of personal taste. For the record, I am a great fan of both G F Handel and J S Bach!

As a work to lead into Holy Week, it would be difficult to find a more appropriate work than Mozart's “Requiem”. On Palm Sunday evening around 65 singers and four excellent soloists under Lynn James' enthusiastic direction gave a consistently fine performance – no doubt sustained by the first-class tea! Thanks to all who helped to make the occasion run smoothly. However, it was disappointing to note that so few people came to listen.

“An organ builder's nightmare” is how the workings of our organ have been described behind William Hill's fine case of 1888. Yet the instrument makes a beautiful sound and, in the words of many of our recitalists (and the regular organist) is extremely comfortable to play.

However, the cramped organ chamber leads to all manner of maintenance difficulties, and one of those has recently come to light. At the very back of the swell box the 16' Contra Oboe pipes can only be reached for tuning purposes with great difficulty. Worse than that, the mechanism which controls these pipes can only be reached when about 600 pipes (large, small and very delicate) have been removed! Of course, it's this well-concealed mechanism which is giving the trouble. Added in 1952 the leather “motors” (really pouches) which allow the pipes to sound are perishing, despite attempts to patch them. The organ builder suggests that the long-term solution is to replace the leather motors with magnets which will be far more reliable and last rather longer.

Naturally all this costs money, but we are fortunate in having access to the Cecil Adams Organ Fund to help fund the work. As well as being Organist and Choirmaster at St James' from 1933 – 1979, Cecil Adams was also the Diocesan Organ Advisor and when he died, he left the greater part of his estate to the Diocese for the repair and upkeep of church organs, with St James' instrument to have priority over any other applications to the fund.

Fully aware of the remedial work needed to make the tower safe, and mindful of the eye-watering Parish Share of £66,539, I hope that everyone who attends the Coffee Cake and Music Organ Recitals will be extremely generous enabling the work to be carried out as soon as possible.

As yet there is no interest in the Assistant Organist's post, and I continue to be grateful for the help and support I get from all the choristers, but especially David Collins and Lynn James.

The annual Choir Plant and Produce Stall will take place on Saturday 20th May from 9.30am. Donations of plants and produce will be gratefully received. The Coffee Cake and Music organ recital on Saturday May 27th will be given by Benedict Todd. I hope that he will be well supported on this his first visit back to St James after his appointment to Great St Mary's Cambridge.                                                           Nigel Davies

Music for May

Sun 7th     am    Cantique de Jean Racine – Fauré  
Mass of St James – Davies

Sun 14th    am    All-age service

Sun 21st    am    Achieved is the Glorious Work – Haydn

                pm    Deanery Choral Evensong at Hawkesbury
Little Organ Mass – Haydn

Thurs 25th         pm                                           Coelos Ascendit Hodie – Stanford                                   Stanford in C

(Ascension Day) 

Sun 28th    am    Make a Joyful Noise – Mathias  
Woodard Service – Shephard

        pm         O Most Merciful – Wood Ireland in C Bertalot Responses Brewer in D         
Te Deum in Bb – Stanford

30th  am         Jubilate – Sanders Mass of the Creator – Sanders


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