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D Quentin Bellamy

St Peter's, Brighton

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St Peter's, Brighton is very much in the news these days since Holy Trinity Brompton has "moved in". I gather that things are going pretty well there and that congregations are up in the first three weeks. If you look at the St Peter's website, it all appears very lively, what with (harumphh) drums and guitars and keyboards and worship songs. But I am wondering what will become of the organ there. It is a four manual Willis organ, I think last rebuilt by HN&B. Couldn't think that HTB style worship would have too much use for it, but maybe I am wrong. Does anyone know anything? My friend who is a neighbouring vicar went to the re-launch of the church about a fortnight ago and said that the hospitality and welcome was wonderful.

 

I definitely don't want to get into a discussion about the worship style in St Peter's but do wonder about the Willis/HNB organ. Is there a place for it any more? Does anyone know anything?

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Rumour has it that HTB is happy to keep the organ at St Peter's Brighton and use it from time to time. I gather that at the licencing of the new P-in-C the Director of Classical Music from HBT played it extremely well and that the HTB "Classical" choir sang a Latin motet. I wasn't there but I'm told that this is what happened. A local organist - a former D-of-M at St Peter's - has been going in there every week (with the blessing of HTB) throughout to practice on the organ and thereby keep it in good working order.

 

So far so good, it seems.

 

On another point, en route to St Stephen's Gloucester Road (west London) last Thursday evening I went past St Jude's Courtfield Gardens and noted that services are now held in St Mary-le-Boltons in Kensington. Does anyone know what's happening to St Jude's building and organ? They used to have a good, low church, musical tradition and Stephen Ridgely-Whitehouse was there for a while.

 

Malcolm

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Rumour has it that HTB is happy to keep the organ at St Peter's Brighton and use it from time to time. I gather that at the licencing of the new P-in-C the Director of Classical Music from HBT played it extremely well and that the HTB "Classical" choir sang a Latin motet. I wasn't there but I'm told that this is what happened. A local organist - a former D-of-M at St Peter's - has been going in there every week (with the blessing of HTB) throughout to practice on the organ and thereby keep it in good working order.

 

So far so good, it seems.

 

On another point, en route to St Stephen's Gloucester Road (west London) last Thursday evening I went past St Jude's Courtfield Gardens and noted that services are now held in St Mary-le-Boltons in Kensington. Does anyone know what's happening to St Jude's building and organ? They used to have a good, low church, musical tradition and Stephen Ridgely-Whitehouse was there for a while.

 

Malcolm

 

The vicar told me that the whole church will be going through refurbishment within the next few months (or years!), I cant remember which one exactly. It will be closed within that time.

Having played the organ there very shortly before the start of this work it was well well-sounding,no problems with the pipes, but there were major problems with the blower, which couldnt even hold just full swell together.

I think that St Jude is unfortunately following in the footsteps of HTB. There is more contemporary music and instruments being used during services, and as the church website says, the church uses jazz music to connect with god. There is an organist/gospel and jazz music organiser. There are no longer sunday services.

Hopefully, the organ will be without major fault after the work is complete.

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St Peter's, Brighton is very much in the news these days since Holy Trinity Brompton has "moved in". I gather that things are going pretty well there and that congregations are up in the first three weeks. If you look at the St Peter's website, it all appears very lively, what with (harumphh) drums and guitars and keyboards and worship songs. But I am wondering what will become of the organ there. It is a four manual job, I think last rebuilt by HN&B. Couldn't think that HTB style worship would have too much use for it, but maybe I am wrong. Does anyone know anything? My friend who is a neighbouring vicar went to the re-launch of the church about a fortnight ago and said that the hospitality and welcome was wonderful.

 

I definitely don't want to get into a discussion about the worship style in St Peter's but do wonder about the HNB organ. Is there a place for it any more? Does anyone know anything?

 

OK - could somepne explain exactly what is meant by HTB 'moving in', please? I am too tired to start trawling the 'net at this time of night.

 

Out of interest, does anyone know what has happened to the Kingsgate Davidsion (amongst others) instrument at HTB? Is it still used? Is it even still there? The last time it was surveyed, according to the NPOR, was in 1980. I have played it since then and would be interested to learn whether it just sits there, is used (even occasionally)- or whether it has been removed.

 

Thank you.

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I definitely don't want to get into a discussion about the worship style in St Peter's but do wonder about the HNB organ. Is there a place for it any more? Does anyone know anything?

Apologies for splitting hairs, but to me and many others it is a Father Willis organ - albeit rebuilt by HNB in 1956 and 1983.

 

On another point, en route to St Stephen's Gloucester Road (west London) last Thursday evening I went past St Jude's Courtfield Gardens and noted that services are now held in St Mary-le-Boltons in Kensington. Does anyone know what's happening to St Jude's building and organ? They used to have a good, low church, musical tradition and Stephen Ridgely-Whitehouse was there for a while.

 

Malcolm

On the occasion that I played for a Sunday service at St Jude's many years ago, the liturgy was far from 'low church'.

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St Peter's Brighton had a very small congregation and even less money. Amongst other structural probelms the nave ceiling is falling down and the nave cannot be used. It is said that £3 million is needed to put it right and HBT are good at raising money from wealthy people. As I understand it, St Peter's has been declared redundant (with an Order to that effect signed by the Privvy Council) and its parish reduced literally to the small traffic island on which it is built. The rest of the parish has been carved up between neighbouring parishes such as Chapel Royal and St Bartholomew's. The church buildings (church and attached hall) have been leased by the Diocese to HTB who are using it for their own type of service. They have been asked by local clergy not to "poach" from other churches but Brighton does have a very large student population in which the other churches of central Brighton seem to have taken no interest whatsoever and they, of course, are the type of people who will be drawn to HTB style worship. There is plenty of provision locally for the other end of the liturgical spectrum.

 

I suspect it will work quite well.

 

Malcolm

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Guest Patrick Coleman

Malcolm is right to emphasise the niche style of HTB; and if the local churches are not reaching out to or attracting a significant part of the population, then good luck to HTB!

 

We were among many who expressed an interest in the Willis when it became clear that Saint Peter's was likely to become redundant. Later we were advised that HTB were keen to keep the organ and it was therefore not likely to become available. They have more than enough resources to achieve a complete rebuild of both church and organ if they consider them to be an important part of their outreach. They obviously didn't consider the organ important when they occupied Onslow Square, but I have a sense that for them each case has to be considered on its merits (using their priorities of course).

 

It does occur to me that an email to them might actually come up with a clear (and probably positive) answer.

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A church with a large enough membership will doubtless be considered a spiritual home by Christians of most musical tastes including classical. I used to fortunate enough to assist on the organ at one of HTB's London plants, a fine Victorian building whose congregation had dwindled to a handful of elderly, but faithful and devout Christians who for a number of years prayed that the church would not be allowed to fall into disuse. Their prayers were evidently answered by becoming an HTB "plant", transforming the congregation into one of several hundred (including, I might add, the faithful few who had remained all this time - and I think it's fair to point out that far from "poaching" people from other churches, the congregation grew through evangelism and encouraging new Christians).

 

At least during the time I was there, the organ, a fine large Walker of romantic era, and reputedly sporting a reed voiced by cavaille-Coll, successfully blended into the modern choruses of the worship band, yet remained a fine accompaniment for hymns and was played at the majority of services. There were enough classical musicians to be able to perform choral music (I still remember a packed-out baptism and confirmation service, during which I accompanied Elgar's "The Spirit of the Lord".) And for good measure to respect those parishioners who felt out of place in anything other than BCP, a few times a year a full 1662 Choral Evensong was mounted.

 

Whether such an eclectic approach will be adopted in Brighton remains to be seen, but I trust that I will be in good company if I suggest that the Church's mission must be the driver of its music, and not the other way round, and when the Church gets its mission right, other things fall neatly into place. If the church recognises that they have a treasure in, OK not jars of clay, but encased in a row of pedal diapasons, and they encourage diversity and talent within the congregation, then I would feel quite reassured about the future of this magnificent instrument.

 

As long as they don't wreck the acoustics by carpeting the entire building.

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It's curious how a question can be answered.

 

A few months ago I was wondering what would be the future of the four manual Willis organ at St Peter's. Little did I know at the time was the fact that my brother Stuart and his wife and family had decided to uproot from their home in Littlehampton to live in Brighton in order to become a part of the HTB church plant at St Peter's.

 

The church plant commenced in November, and I believe it's a case of so far, so good! My very good friend Father Andrew Manson Brailsford, who is the Vicar of Kemp Town and newly appointed Area Dean of Brighton was the induction service of Rev'd Archie Coates who is Vicar of St Peter's and he was welcomed to the church, by none other than Stuart!

 

I had meant to ask what was to happen to the organ, but unfortunately did not get a chance, as Stuart died very suddenly on 7 January this year. So last week I had to journey down to Brighton for the funeral which was at St Peter's. Shortly before travelling down, I was told (!) that I would be playing the organ.

 

On the day of the funeral (Friday 22/01/10) I went to the church to have a quick run-through. The nave of St Peter's is curtained off from the chancel area because of falling masonry. It is unbelievable how such a grand church could have gotten into this state! Worship takes place in the chancel area which is a very large space and there was seating for about 250. I gather that the church is drawing congregations of around 200 people at the main service on a Sunday. There is a large screen for OHP (not a hymn book to be seen!) and an ominous looking drum kit!

 

Anyway the organ was well in tune and every thing (I think) works. The Vicar, Rev'd Archie Coates is a young man with curly blonde hair and very dynamic and I found him to be a delightful and humble personality. He asked me about the organ, whether it was good, that they had just had it tuned, and would it need a lot of work in the future. I had taken a look at the tuner's book and it seems that leather is perishing so was able to share that with him. He seemed pleased when I described the organ as a Rolls-Royce among instruments, and I get the impression that whilst it may not get as much use as it did in former days, it will nevertheless be well cared for and respected.

 

Stuart's funeral was quite the event. There was a congregation of around 250-300 persons present, good singing (the organ had a good blast at them!) and very caring, sensitive and inspiring ministry was much in evidence.

 

I certainly wish them well - and look forward to renewing the acquaintance with the Willis, though perhaps on a happier occasion.

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So sorry to hear about the death of Quentin's brother.

 

As a matter of interest, I gather that the drum kit is played by a young man who was an enthusiastic member of St Peter's (traditional Anglican) choir in the days of weekly choral Evensong and whose mother, a local singing teacher, sings regularly in the choir at one of the extreme Anglo Catholic churches in central Brighton.

 

There was a rumour going around that blue asbestos had been found in the organ chamber but I suspect that may have been untrue. It is good to hear that the HTB people are aware of the need to preserve and look after the organ. I just hope they soon do something about the outside of the building. At present motorists driving into Brighton from either of the two main roads from north are confronted by a depressing looking church, fenced off almost all round and showing large signs "beware falling masonry". Hardly a good advert for the C-of-E although at least there are now large banners proclaiming the Alpha Course!

 

There are a number of reasons - going back several decades - why St Peter's was allowed to fall into this state of disrepair but these are inappropriate for airing on a public website.

 

 

As I've said before, privately, the next time Quentin is in Brighton - hopefully under happier circumstances - he is very welcome to visit me to try my latest large musical toy. It seems like hundreds of years since we last met!

 

Malcolm

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During my Guildford days, we used sometimes to take the choir to St Peter's to give concerts.  After the dry acoustics of Guildford, St Peter's was a real delight.  The console - HNB - was dreadfully uncomfortable and the pedal board a horror.  But it made a fine sound.  The Swell, as I recall, was at the east end of the organ but the shutters when open would send the sound against the opposite wall and then down the Nave. 

Very sorry to hear of Stuart Bellamy's death.  But good to hear that the organ is still in one piece.  I believe someone altered one of the mixtures - and removed the tierce.  Grrr.  But such things can easily be reinstated.  

Acoustics at Guildford are hugely improved after removal of asbestos and I believe the organ has taken on a new lease of life, although I have not yet visited since the organ was renovated.  

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