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Celebrating Rochester Composers

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Please forgive the slightly off-topic posting, but I would be most grateful if board members would be kind enough to pass on to any friends/colleagues with Rochester connections this information about our upcoming celebration of Rochester musicians on 25-26 July (Bobby Ashfield would have been 98 on the 28th).

Music list here: http://www.gundulf.org.uk/html/summer_2009.html

Programme notes here: http://www.gundulf.org.uk/html/rochester_musicians.html

 

Thanks & best wishes,

Douglas.

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The Rochester Composers' festival sounds like a wonderful idea. The local press and TV have recently covered the restoration of Minor Canon Row, Rochester Cathedral's historic Georgian terrace by The Spitalfields Trust prior to being sold off by the Cathedral authorities. No 7 MCR was always the Cathedral Organists' residence. I wonder whether any long-lost MSS by Bridge, Luard-Selby, Hylton Stewart, Bennett, Ashfield et al might have been unearthed?

 

MKR

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No 7 MCR was always the Cathedral Organists' residence. I wonder whether any long-lost MSS by Bridge, Luard-Selby, Hylton Stewart, Bennett, Ashfield et al might have been unearthed?

 

MKR

 

I have passed this question on to others who may have been more closely involved in the removal of various boxes from the cellars of 7MCR. But as regards RJA's music, I spent some time browsing in his library (not at 7MCR) after his 90th birthday tea-party. I'm almost 100% sure I saw an orchestral score and parts of The Fair Chivalry, but I haven't been able to confirm this more recently. Now that would be something! [if Paul Hale reads this, might he know more?]

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No 7 MCR was always the Cathedral Organists' residence. I wonder whether any long-lost MSS by Bridge, Luard-Selby, Hylton Stewart, Bennett, Ashfield et al might have been unearthed?

I was involved in clearing out the basement of no.7. Most of the music and paperwork is now in the Cathedral Office basement, waiting to be sorted, but I don't think there were many manuscripts - with the exception of a briefcase of music by H.A. Bennett which was left to the Cathedral. We do have what seems to be a complete record of all the Rochester Cathedral Chant Books, which includes one by Luard-Selby, Hylton Stewart, Bennett and of course Ashfield.

 

I'm almost 100% sure I saw an orchestral score and parts of The Fair Chivalry, but I haven't been able to confirm this more recently. Now that would be something! [if Paul Hale reads this, might he know more?]

I was at Mary Ashfield's house last year, helping to put together a pile of the music previously published by Oecumuse. Whilst there I did come across said orchestral parts/score - not in RJA's hand. So they do exist!

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I was at Mary Ashfield's house last year, helping to put together a pile of the music previously published by Oecumuse. Whilst there I did come across said orchestral parts/score - not in RJA's hand. So they do exist!

Interesting - so I hadn't imagined it. But I hadn't remembered that the handwriting was different. I wonder whose? If I could get another look, I might recognise it. We must do it sometime. Perhaps for Bobby's centenary in 2 years' time, if not before?

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The Rochester Composers' festival sounds like a wonderful idea. The local press and TV have recently covered the restoration of Minor Canon Row, Rochester Cathedral's historic Georgian terrace by The Spitalfields Trust prior to being sold off by the Cathedral authorities. No 7 MCR was always the Cathedral Organists' residence. I wonder whether any long-lost MSS by Bridge, Luard-Selby, Hylton Stewart, Bennett, Ashfield et al might have been unearthed?

 

MKR

The name Bennett brought back memories of organ lessons in Rochester Cathedral with H. A. Bennett. He never seemed to use his christian names, which I believe were Harold Aubie/Auber, and I have never heard of any compositions that bear his name. He has always been a mystery man to me as I have been unable to discover much about him except that he was once organist at Doncaster Parish Church. A photo of Doncaster`s 5 manual Schultz hung in the organ loft at Rochester and, as a 15 year old boy who had never seen an instrument of such magnitude, it had become somewhat distracting. He knew this and eventually satisfied my curiosity with a description of the organ. He also appeared to prefer the 3 manual Walker.

Can anyone tell me more about H. A. Bennett?

I have a few rather amusing tales regarding my lessons at Rochester with H.A.B. if anyone is interested.

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The name Bennett brought back memories of organ lessons in Rochester Cathedral with H. A. Bennett. He never seemed to use his christian names, which I believe were Harold Aubie/Auber, and I have never heard of any compositions that bear his name. He has always been a mystery man to me as I have been unable to discover much about him except that he was once organist at Doncaster Parish Church. A photo of Doncaster`s 5 manual Schultz hung in the organ loft at Rochester and, as a 15 year old boy who had never seen an instrument of such magnitude, it had become somewhat distracting. He knew this and eventually satisfied my curiosity with a description of the organ. He also appeared to prefer the 3 manual Walker.

Can anyone tell me more about H. A. Bennett?

I have a few rather amusing tales regarding my lessons at Rochester with H.A.B. if anyone is interested.

 

 

I've done a bit of digging on Harold Aubie Bennett, who succeeded Charles Hylton Stewart as Organist at Rochester Cathedral in 1930. Bennett was born in Eccles, Manchester in 1891, the son of William Arthur Bennett, an Insurance Manager (Boiler Insurance, to be specific!), a native of Salford and Sara Lucy Bennett (maiden name unknown), a Mancunian. There was an older sister, Ethel Lucy Bennett. By 1911 the family were living in Brudenell Grove, Leeds, and HAB is listed in the census as being 19 years old, single and 'student music and organist'. HAB was educated at the Central High School in Leeds and at Leeds Parish Church, presumably as a chorister under Bairstow. From 1913-23 he was Bairstow's Assistant at York Minster as well as being Organist of the city's Priory Church of Holy Trinity. From 1919-24 he was a lecturer at St John's College, York. He also conducted York Symphony Orchestra, which had been founded by Thomas Tertius Noble, from 1921-6. From 1919-25 HAB was Chorus Master of Bradford Festival Choral Society. This overlapped with his tenure as Organist of Doncaster Parish Church, 1923-30. He also conducted Doncaster LNER Music Society from 1925-30.

 

In 1919 he married the pianist Lilian W Dewhurst in York. There don't appear to have been any children from the marriage. The Bennetts moved into Minor Canon Row, Rochester in the summer of 1930. Having been turned down for the top job Percy Whitlock left Rochester for St Stephen's Bournemouth. Bennett had suggested that PW apply for his job at Doncaster. However, the job went to Percy Saunders (later organist at Wakefield Cathedral). In any case, having met Bennett, Whitlock didn't 'feel like continuing in a subordinate position. I cannot stay here under a new man' he confided to his diary. Bennett's application had received strong support from Bairstow, an influential 'fixer' of organists' posts in those days.

 

HAB took over the conductorship of Rochester Choral Society in 1930, considerably widening its repertory, with music by Bax, Faure (3 performances of the then rarely-heard Requiem), Hamilton Harty (The Mystic Trumpeter), Armstrong Gibbs' The Highwayman, Holst's The Hymn of Jesus, Kodaly's Te Deum, Verdi's Requiem and RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem. Heady stuff!. He also served as an examiner for Trinity College from 1939.

 

Lilian Bennett died in November 1944, aged 48. Three months earlier she and HAB had survived a near hit from a V1 which landed near a garden in Frindsbury where they were having tea with a Choral Society member. Two years later HAB married Zana Zoe Burford (1912-1991), Music Mistress at Chatham Girls' Technical School and later at Rochester Girls' Grammar School. She had served as accompanist to Rochester Choral Society during the War.

 

According to Joe Levett's memoirs HAB retired 'owing to ill-health' in 1956. He was succeeded by Dr Robert Ashfield. The Bennetts stayed on in Rochester. HAB died in 1978.

 

He doesn't appear to have left many original compositions. He did, however, contribute a chorus to the Rochester Historical Pageant of 1931 (together with music by PW and Hylton Stewart).

 

I have one open reel tape recording of a recital given by HAB on Rochester Cathedral Organ in 1957 which gives a good idea of his musicianship. This was found among the enormous cache of off-air 78rpm and open reel recordings rescued from Joe Levett's Rochester residence when he moved into an old folk's home.

 

There are the bare bones of HAB's career. Who can add some human-interest raiment?

 

Malcolm Riley

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I've done a bit of digging on Harold Aubie Bennett, who succeeded Charles Hylton Stewart as Organist at Rochester Cathedral in 1930. Bennett was born in Eccles, Manchester in 1891, the son of William Arthur Bennett, an Insurance Manager (Boiler Insurance, to be specific!), a native of Salford and Sara Lucy Bennett (maiden name unknown), a Mancunian. There was an older sister, Ethel Lucy Bennett. By 1911 the family were living in Brudenell Grove, Leeds, and HAB is listed in the census as being 19 years old, single and 'student music and organist'. HAB was educated at the Central High School in Leeds and at Leeds Parish Church, presumably as a chorister under Bairstow. From 1913-23 he was Bairstow's Assistant at York Minster as well as being Organist of the city's Priory Church of Holy Trinity. From 1919-24 he was a lecturer at St John's College, York. He also conducted York Symphony Orchestra, which had been founded by Thomas Tertius Noble, from 1921-6. From 1919-25 HAB was Chorus Master of Bradford Festival Choral Society. This overlapped with his tenure as Organist of Doncaster Parish Church, 1923-30. He also conducted Doncaster LNER Music Society from 1925-30.

 

In 1919 he married the pianist Lilian W Dewhurst in York. There don't appear to have been any children from the marriage. The Bennetts moved into Minor Canon Row, Rochester in the summer of 1930. Having been turned down for the top job Percy Whitlock left Rochester for St Stephen's Bournemouth. Bennett had suggested that PW apply for his job at Doncaster. However, the job went to Percy Saunders (later organist at Wakefield Cathedral). In any case, having met Bennett, Whitlock didn't 'feel like continuing in a subordinate position. I cannot stay here under a new man' he confided to his diary. Bennett's application had received strong support from Bairstow, an influential 'fixer' of organists' posts in those days.

 

HAB took over the conductorship of Rochester Choral Society in 1930, considerably widening its repertory, with music by Bax, Faure (3 performances of the then rarely-heard Requiem), Hamilton Harty (The Mystic Trumpeter), Armstrong Gibbs' The Highwayman, Holst's The Hymn of Jesus, Kodaly's Te Deum, Verdi's Requiem and RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem. Heady stuff!. He also served as an examiner for Trinity College from 1939.

 

Lilian Bennett died in November 1944, aged 48. Three months earlier she and HAB had survived a near hit from a V1 which landed near a garden in Frindsbury where they were having tea with a Choral Society member. Two years later HAB married Zana Zoe Burford (1912-1991), Music Mistress at Chatham Girls' Technical School and later at Rochester Girls' Grammar School. She had served as accompanist to Rochester Choral Society during the War.

 

According to Joe Levett's memoirs HAB retired 'owing to ill-health' in 1956. He was succeeded by Dr Robert Ashfield. The Bennetts stayed on in Rochester. HAB died in 1978.

 

He doesn't appear to have left many original compositions. He did, however, contribute a chorus to the Rochester Historical Pageant of 1931 (together with music by PW and Hylton Stewart).

 

I have one open reel tape recording of a recital given by HAB on Rochester Cathedral Organ in 1957 which gives a good idea of his musicianship. This was found among the enormous cache of off-air 78rpm and open reel recordings rescued from Joe Levett's Rochester residence when he moved into an old folk's home.

 

There are the bare bones of HAB's career. Who can add some human-interest raiment?

 

Malcolm Riley

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I've done a bit of digging on Harold Aubie Bennett, who succeeded Charles Hylton Stewart as Organist at Rochester Cathedral in 1930. Bennett was born in Eccles, Manchester in 1891, the son of William Arthur Bennett, an Insurance Manager (Boiler Insurance, to be specific!), a native of Salford and Sara Lucy Bennett (maiden name unknown), a Mancunian. There was an older sister, Ethel Lucy Bennett. By 1911 the family were living in Brudenell Grove, Leeds, and HAB is listed in the census as being 19 years old, single and 'student music and organist'. HAB was educated at the Central High School in Leeds and at Leeds Parish Church, presumably as a chorister under Bairstow. From 1913-23 he was Bairstow's Assistant at York Minster as well as being Organist of the city's Priory Church of Holy Trinity. From 1919-24 he was a lecturer at St John's College, York. He also conducted York Symphony Orchestra, which had been founded by Thomas Tertius Noble, from 1921-6. From 1919-25 HAB was Chorus Master of Bradford Festival Choral Society. This overlapped with his tenure as Organist of Doncaster Parish Church, 1923-30. He also conducted Doncaster LNER Music Society from 1925-30.

 

In 1919 he married the pianist Lilian W Dewhurst in York. There don't appear to have been any children from the marriage. The Bennetts moved into Minor Canon Row, Rochester in the summer of 1930. Having been turned down for the top job Percy Whitlock left Rochester for St Stephen's Bournemouth. Bennett had suggested that PW apply for his job at Doncaster. However, the job went to Percy Saunders (later organist at Wakefield Cathedral). In any case, having met Bennett, Whitlock didn't 'feel like continuing in a subordinate position. I cannot stay here under a new man' he confided to his diary. Bennett's application had received strong support from Bairstow, an influential 'fixer' of organists' posts in those days.

 

HAB took over the conductorship of Rochester Choral Society in 1930, considerably widening its repertory, with music by Bax, Faure (3 performances of the then rarely-heard Requiem), Hamilton Harty (The Mystic Trumpeter), Armstrong Gibbs' The Highwayman, Holst's The Hymn of Jesus, Kodaly's Te Deum, Verdi's Requiem and RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem. Heady stuff!. He also served as an examiner for Trinity College from 1939.

 

Lilian Bennett died in November 1944, aged 48. Three months earlier she and HAB had survived a near hit from a V1 which landed near a garden in Frindsbury where they were having tea with a Choral Society member. Two years later HAB married Zana Zoe Burford (1912-1991), Music Mistress at Chatham Girls' Technical School and later at Rochester Girls' Grammar School. She had served as accompanist to Rochester Choral Society during the War.

 

According to Joe Levett's memoirs HAB retired 'owing to ill-health' in 1956. He was succeeded by Dr Robert Ashfield. The Bennetts stayed on in Rochester. HAB died in 1978.

 

He doesn't appear to have left many original compositions. He did, however, contribute a chorus to the Rochester Historical Pageant of 1931 (together with music by PW and Hylton Stewart).

 

I have one open reel tape recording of a recital given by HAB on Rochester Cathedral Organ in 1957 which gives a good idea of his musicianship. This was found among the enormous cache of off-air 78rpm and open reel recordings rescued from Joe Levett's Rochester residence when he moved into an old folk's home.

 

There are the bare bones of HAB's career. Who can add some human-interest raiment?

 

Malcolm Riley

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I've done a bit of digging on Harold Aubie Bennett, who succeeded Charles Hylton Stewart as Organist at Rochester Cathedral in 1930. Bennett was born in Eccles, Manchester in 1891, the son of William Arthur Bennett, an Insurance Manager (Boiler Insurance, to be specific!), a native of Salford and Sara Lucy Bennett (maiden name unknown), a Mancunian. There was an older sister, Ethel Lucy Bennett. By 1911 the family were living in Brudenell Grove, Leeds, and HAB is listed in the census as being 19 years old, single and 'student music and organist'. HAB was educated at the Central High School in Leeds and at Leeds Parish Church, presumably as a chorister under Bairstow. From 1913-23 he was Bairstow's Assistant at York Minster as well as being Organist of the city's Priory Church of Holy Trinity. From 1919-24 he was a lecturer at St John's College, York. He also conducted York Symphony Orchestra, which had been founded by Thomas Tertius Noble, from 1921-6. From 1919-25 HAB was Chorus Master of Bradford Festival Choral Society. This overlapped with his tenure as Organist of Doncaster Parish Church, 1923-30. He also conducted Doncaster LNER Music Society from 1925-30.

 

In 1919 he married the pianist Lilian W Dewhurst in York. There don't appear to have been any children from the marriage. The Bennetts moved into Minor Canon Row, Rochester in the summer of 1930. Having been turned down for the top job Percy Whitlock left Rochester for St Stephen's Bournemouth. Bennett had suggested that PW apply for his job at Doncaster. However, the job went to Percy Saunders (later organist at Wakefield Cathedral). In any case, having met Bennett, Whitlock didn't 'feel like continuing in a subordinate position. I cannot stay here under a new man' he confided to his diary. Bennett's application had received strong support from Bairstow, an influential 'fixer' of organists' posts in those days.

 

HAB took over the conductorship of Rochester Choral Society in 1930, considerably widening its repertory, with music by Bax, Faure (3 performances of the then rarely-heard Requiem), Hamilton Harty (The Mystic Trumpeter), Armstrong Gibbs' The Highwayman, Holst's The Hymn of Jesus, Kodaly's Te Deum, Verdi's Requiem and RVW's Dona Nobis Pacem. Heady stuff!. He also served as an examiner for Trinity College from 1939.

 

Lilian Bennett died in November 1944, aged 48. Three months earlier she and HAB had survived a near hit from a V1 which landed near a garden in Frindsbury where they were having tea with a Choral Society member. Two years later HAB married Zana Zoe Burford (1912-1991), Music Mistress at Chatham Girls' Technical School and later at Rochester Girls' Grammar School. She had served as accompanist to Rochester Choral Society during the War.

 

According to Joe Levett's memoirs HAB retired 'owing to ill-health' in 1956. He was succeeded by Dr Robert Ashfield. The Bennetts stayed on in Rochester. HAB died in 1978.

 

He doesn't appear to have left many original compositions. He did, however, contribute a chorus to the Rochester Historical Pageant of 1931 (together with music by PW and Hylton Stewart).

 

I have one open reel tape recording of a recital given by HAB on Rochester Cathedral Organ in 1957 which gives a good idea of his musicianship. This was found among the enormous cache of off-air 78rpm and open reel recordings rescued from Joe Levett's Rochester residence when he moved into an old folk's home.

 

There are the bare bones of HAB's career. Who can add some human-interest raiment?

 

Malcolm Riley

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Many thanks, Malcolm, for the information on H. A. Bennett. It was really an `eye-opener`, especially his performances with the Rochester Choral Society - heady stuff indeed. At one of my lessons he had a young lady with him who I thought may be his daughter. He introduced me to her, with a little smile on his face, as his wife, Zoe. This `little smile` became quite a feature of my lessons during the coming months, especially when he told me, as he always did, when he was giving a broadcast Sunday morning recital. I wonder if the Beeb have some of his recitals in their archive?

My memory may be playing tricks, but I think he said that Zoe was the organist at the church next door to the Cathedral (now the Diocesan Office). This church had a fine three manual Walker on which he gave lessons when the Cathedral organ was under maintenance or the BBC were preparing the Cathedral for a broadcast. Does anyone know what happened to this instrument?

On one occasion, when I was having trouble with a quick, manual stop change, he said "You must pounce like cat". When I again made a hash of it, the little smile appeared on his face as he got up from his armchair and said "Move over, I`ll show you". I knew something special was about to happen and it did. He began playing a few bars before the crucial point and I waited for the pounce. It didn`t happen, as he calmly drew one stop and deftly pushed in another with his bald head and the `little smile` became a `big smile`.

I am fairly certain that HAB was partial to a pinch of snuff as there was always a sweet, not unpleasant aroma (which I didn`t recognise at that time), in the organ loft at Rochester. Years later I encountered an elderly gentleman who was a snuff-taker and immediately the smell brought back memories of my organ lessons and accounted for HAB`s sniffing and sneezing.

The ascent to and descent from the organ loft always followed a strict pattern. The steps were not much better than a ladder and he always insisted the pupil went up first. When the lesson was over he would say "push all the stops in - open the swell box - switch off - now we`ll wait for Mary and Martha to go to bed". The last instruction referring to the two wind indicators at either side of the keyboards, the type that resemble a plumb line. As soon as they rose to the empty position he said "Move over". He then sat on the bench with hands clasped together and using the full length of his forearms depressed each manual in turn about three times to ensure everything was "off". Master and pupil then descended the steps in the correct order, and one shilling was put into the coin box at the foot of the steps, this was for the use if the Cathedral`s electricity. A trip to the Crypt then followed where HAB meticulously switched everything off and then carefully checked each switch with the aid of his torch. Then followed the trip to the North Door where he produced an enormous key with which he locked it with a pronounced `clunk`. He then shoulder charged the door three times before he said "Good Night!, see you next Saturday".

.

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