Saint James

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The Organ


When the church was consecrated in 1837 there was no musical instrument and a Mr G Smith was employed as "The Leader of the Singers". The first Statement of Accounts reveals that he was paid the sum of one guinea for his services. However, in 1844 a desire to improve the psalmody led to the priest-in-charge, the Revd John H Broome, inviting subscriptions for an organ. ( Psalmody is the practice or art of singing psalms, hymns and other anthems, especially in public worship.) When the subscriptions reached £87/5/ 3d , a contract was given to G H Holditch of Greek Street, Soho to provide an appropriate instrument which was installed on 27th November 1845 and he was the organist at the opening ceremony. This was no ordinary organ. Placed in a chamber over the south side of the nave, it was fitted with a "dumb organist by which it is at once convertible from a finger to a barrel organ". It could be arranged to play popular hymns of the day provided someone turned the handle!
Surprisingly this instrument only lasted 20 years. As indicated on the specification, many of the stops were never installed and awaited ‘an enlarged church’. Indeed, the space available in the south organ loft could not have accommodated such a large instrument. Therefore, when the nave was rebuilt in 1912, it was dismantled and a larger space for a new organ was provided on the north side of the chancel, where the present organ is housed. One of the permissions of the faculty granted for this major rebuild of the Church dated the 4th October 1912 was ‘ to sell the old organ and provide a new one’. But before a new organ could be acquired, the Great War intervened and the Church was without a pipe organ until 1919. As an interim measure a French Mustell reed organ was used, being played "with great gusto" by Mr Coward!
From the evidence available to us today, the provenance of the new 1919 organ is open to conjecture. Having compared the specification of the original Brindley and Foster organ with that of the 1919 replacement, Mr Philip Kirby, the organist for many years from 1932, is surprised at the close similarities of the two. He is convinced that much of the old organ was incorporated into the new, which seems to suggest that the old instrument was not sold as intended, but stored during the War and then used in the new installation. The Swell, Choir and Pedal were constructed by Wm Hill and Son and Norman Beard Ltd of Lewes, Sussex.

Great
Open Diapason No 1 8 ft
Open Diapason No 2 8 ft
Principal 4 ft
Fifteenth 2 ft
Double Diapason 16 ft
Clarabel 8 ft
Harmonic Flute 4 ft
Trumpet 8 ft

Swell to Great
Choir to Great

Swell (Enclosed)
Open Diapason 8 ft
Stopped Diapason 8 ft
Vox Celeste 8 ft
Echo Gamba 8 ft
Mixture
Horn 8 ft
Oboe 8 ft
Gemshorne 4 ft

Sub Octave
Octave


Choir
Open Diapason 8 ft
Dulciana 8 ft
Clarabel 8 ft
Flute 4 ft
Clarinet 8 ft

Sub Octave
Octave
Swell to Choir

Pedal
Bourdon 16 ft
Bass Flute 8 ft
Open Diapason 16 ft
Open Diapason 8 ft

Great to Pedal
Swell to Pedal
Choir to Pedal

Two or three years later the above third manual (Great) was added by Tunks & Son and this three manual instrument remained in use until 1965. The organ was situated in the space provided on the north side of the chancel, with the console being placed high above the choir stalls.

At the end of 1965 a further rebuild became necessary, as the old pneumatic action was worn out and was becoming more and more unreliable. Peter Collins (organ builder) was commissioned to carry out the work which incorporated a detached console and electro- pneumatic action. The rebuilt instrument was first used on Monday 28th March 1966 at the opening recital given by Peter Hurford, Master of the Music at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban and included works by J S Bach, Mozart, Sweelinck and Christian Ritter. This is the organ still in use today. It contains a total of one thousand, one hundred and ninety- eight speaking pipes, a number of which according to Philip Kirby, are almost certainly the original pipes installed by Brindley & Foster in 1891.


Manual Compass:- CC - a  58 notes

Great
Principal 8 ft
Clarabel 8 ft
Dulciana 8 ft
Octave 4 ft
Koppel Flote 4 ft
Fifteenth 2 ft

Mixture IIrks 1 1/3
Clarinet Unit A 16 ft
Clarinet Unit A 8 ft
Trumpet 8 ft
4 Thumb pistons

Swell
Open Diapason 8 ft
Stopped Diapason 8 ft
Gamba 8 ft
Voix Celeste 8 ft
Octave 4 ft
Mixture IIIrks 2 ft

Horn 8 ft
Oboe 4 ft
Tremulant
4 Thumb pistons


Pedal Compass:- CCC - f  30 notes

Pedal
Open Wood 16 ft
Bourbon 16 ft
Principal 8 ft
Flute 8 ft
Octave 4 ft
Flute 4 ft

Mixture IIrks 2 2/3
Clarinet 16 ft
Clarinet 4 ft
4 Toe pistons

Couplers
Swell Octave
Swell Unison Off
Swell Sub Octave
Swell Octave to Great
Swell to Great
Swell Sub Octave to Great
Swell to Pedal
Great to Pedal

Great & Pedal Pistons Cpd


NewOrgan - Speaker Casing
NewOrgan - Speaker Casing

By the late 1990's it had become apparent that the organ was once again in need of a major overhaul. It was unreliable and temperamental and had been severely affected by water damage several years previously. The Diocesan Organ Advisor pointed to a number of problems, the most serious being the need to replace the sound boards at an estimated cost of some £30,000. However, he did not feel that such an investment was justified by the overall quality of the organ.

Various options were considered, including the possible acquisition of a second-hand instrument, but it was not until 2003 that a viable solution was presented to the PCC. An anonymous benefactor offered to pay for a new, state of the art, three manual electronic organ. Following a demonstration in the church of the Eminent DCS organ by the supplier, Cathedral Organs Ltd of Welwyn Garden City, the PCC agreed to accept the generous offer and put in hand the necessary faculty application. It is hoped that the installation will be completed during 2004 at a total estimated cost of about £25,000, including structural work for supporting the speaker housing.

The 3 manual Eminent DCS400 includes the following key features in the specification:

Three 61 note manuals having a light tracker feel top resistance and a 32 note concave/radiating pedal board with two expression pedals for Swell and Choir control.

52 speaking stops, including 8 Alterable Voices for use with the Library.

8 'General' pistons and 8 Departmental pistons to Swell and Great, each having 16 memory banks, with coupler reversing pistons.

12 solid brass toe pistons duplicating General thumb pistons and couplers.

16 channels of amplification - 6 low, 6 high and 4 bass - having 100 watt RMS amplifiers to each high channel and 200 watt RMS amplifiers to each low and bass channel. Speakers and amplifiers  sited at the rear of the church

5 channels of amplification and speakers in the Chancel area, separately switched from the organ console.

A built-in Library of 64 extra stops.

The future of the pipe organ will be decided at a later date.

ORGANISTS

Since a pipe organ was introduced as part of the 1891 chancel addition, the organists have been:

1891 - 1912 J M Coward

1912 - 1926 Walter Barron

1926 - 1948 Alban Claughton FRC0. He was a grandson of the first Bishop of St Albans

1948 - 1953 James Bluff

1953 - 1968 Philip Kirby. He was also assistant for much of the period

1932 - 1953. Philip was baptized, confirmed and married in St Peter’s.

1968 - 1970 Peter Collins

1970 - 1973 Paul Wing

1973 - 1978 David Pickett

1978 - 1984 David Groves

1984 - 1985 Amanda Humphreys & Michael Wood

1985 - 2003 Valerie Jones

2003 - 2004 Chris Wiley

2004 - Keith Motson

                                              The Choir

Revd C H Barker with Choir Boys c 1920
Revd C H Barker with Choir Boys c 1920
There seems to have been a choir at St Peter’s throughout its history, but unfortunately no detailed records have survived. We know the choir had a cricket team in 1911 and the above photograph taken sometime later with the vicar, the Revd Charles Barker, is evidence of a strong boys’ section. Various press reports give credibility to the high choral tradition of the Church, particularly in the first part of the last century. At the consecration of the new chancel in 1891, the Watford Observer reports on June 18th "a numerous choir, which, with two exceptions, was the ordinary choir of the Church" Their renderings included the Te Deum to the music composed by the late Prince Consort, HRH Prince Albert.
Photographs taken at the foundation stone- laying ceremony for the new Memorial Chapel on the octave of the Patronal Festival in July 1921 show a very large choir of men and boys and the tone of the Watford Observer report on the service at the conclusion of the Festival indicates the musical standards achieved at this period of the Church’s history: "The festival was brought to a close by a recital of music by Mrs. Maurice Perrin( soprano) Mr. Kim Peacock (violin) and Mr D G W Reeve (organ). Mrs Maurice Perrin sang with great feeling a Negro spiritual song ‘ At Sunset and Dawn’. She was joined by Mr Kim Peacock in the wonderful Gounod-Bach ‘Ave Maria’. Mr Peacock played ‘Dreams’ (Schumann), ‘Song Without Words’ (Sammons) and ‘The Prize Song’ (Wagner).The fine tone of the violin and the great feeling of his playing delighted the large congregation... The Church, as is custom for this Festival, was beautifully decorated with roses" At the dedication of the Chapel seven months later in February 1922, the Church Times reported that " the rendering of the musical part of the service by a large and well-trained choir was very impressive"

The choir continued with varying fortunes over the years. Under the direction of choirmaster Philip Kirby in the 1950's and early 60's the Church was renowned as having the best choir in the district, as evidenced by a recording held by Bushey Museum of the wedding of Vilma Robinson and Stanley Smith in 1956. These golden years of choral excellence came to an abrupt end in 1964 when the newly appointed vicar, the Revd Myles Raikes, refused to have female voices in the choir and there were not enough male voices available to fill the gap.

Unfortunately, there has not been a junior choir for some considerable time and today it is almost entirely a ladies’ choir with the exception of a couple of male voices. Nevertheless, the musical tradition of the church - aided by its excellent acoustics - has continued with periodical concerts by The Royal Academy of Music Student Orchestra (of which Paul Wing, our organist, was secretary ); The Bushey Symphony Orchestra, whose first conductor was organist David Picket; concerts by various vocal groups; and productions of large scale religious musicals by the St Peter’s Players which they have performed in the Church.