South Wessex Organ Society to host first festival

organ festival
Organist David Davies will give a recital to kick off the first South West Organ Society Festival

THE first South Wessex Organ Society (SWOS) Festival will takes place from May 11to 13 and offers four exciting events that are open to members and non-members alike.

First up is an organ recital on Friday, May 11 starting at 7.30pm at the Minster Church in Axminster. The organist is David Davies, formerly assistant director of music at Exeter Cathedral and a renowned recitalist, and he will be putting the Minster’s three-manual Norman & Beard organ through its paces with works by JS Bach, Handel, Wagner and Vierne plus the mighty ‘Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H’ by Liszt.

There will be two events on Saturday, May 12th. During the day, SWOS officers will lead a tour around some of the most interesting organs in West Dorset, including the modern Škrabl instruments at Lyme Regis and Beaminster, and older organs in Whitchurch Canonicorum and Morcombelake.

At each stop there will be a short demonstration before participants get the chance to play themselves. The tour starts at 10.30am at Beaminster Parish Church, finishing at 4.45pm at St Michael’s Parish Church in Lyme Regis. Participants need their own transport.

At 7.30pm on Saturday, May 12, two excellent local choirs will be giving a gala concert at St Michael’s in Lyme. The New Elizabethan Singers and Lyme Bay Chorale are joining forces under the direction of Matt Kingston to present a programme including the Messe Solenelle by Louis Vierne and works by Duruflé, Parry and Vaughan Williams.

The festival comes to a close on Sunday, May 13 with a ‘Come & Sing’ afternoon at St Andrew’s Church in Colyton. Singers will gather at 1.30pm to rehearse Bach’s Cantata 150 with local Bach scholar Peter Lea-Cox, who is also an artistic adviser to SWOS. The assembled choir will then perform the cantata during a service of Vespers at 5pm, accompanied by organ and a small orchestra.

“We’ve enjoyed putting the festival programme together and I’m confident that local music enthusiasts will find much to enjoy among the events,” said Philip Sturrock, SWOS chairman.

“We hope the festival will become an annual event as the society becomes established as an influential force in regional music.”

More information and tickets are available at the society’s website, Tickets for the gala concert on Saturday, May 12 are also available from Lyme Regis Tourist Information Centre and Penny Black Cafe (behind the post office in Lyme Regis). Some tickets will also be available on the door.

Encouraging the appreciation of organ music

The South Wessex Organ Society – the successor to the well-established Lyme Regis Organ School – was founded in 2017 and aims to encourage organ playing and the appreciation of sacred and secular organ music across the region. It works towards this purpose both through recitals and concerts and through practical courses that encourage existing organists on their musical path.

Membership of the society is open to all, organists and non-organists alike. Annual membership is £15 single and £25 for a couple. Members’ subscriptions provide a vital source of income, but equally important is their involvement in helping the society to achieve its aims.

The benefits of membership include special members’ events – including the annual president’s reception – as well as priority booking for other society events and a regular newsletter. Members will also take part in electing the board of trustees who manage and direct the society.

The society has access to the world-class Škrabl organ in St Michael’s Church, with its 50-rank, three-manual mechanical action, as well as to many other fine organs in Devon and Dorset.

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