excerpt from 'The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West' pp. 34-35 (434 words)

excerpt from 'The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West' pp. 34-35 (434 words)

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The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West

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[Harry West details his love of organ music from early childhood, and learning to play from the age of ten, largely self-taught, in pages 28; 32 – 35 of his memoir. Related listening experiences are included in the Listening Experience Database as separate items]. 


When I was a young man, somewhere about seventeen years of age, my old school master became choirmaster of [Baptist Mills] Wesley Chapel and when he asked me to join the choir, I did. About the same time, the Sunday School superintendent, Mr. S. Doddrell, asked me to take a junior boys’ class, I did that also. 


The organist of Wesley was then Mr. Frank Snook, A.R.C.O. He was, in my view, an excellent player, and a soulful accompanist of choir and congregation singing. When I had overcome my natural reserve and got to know him, I told him of my efforts to learn music, and my desire to learn the organ. He was sympathetic, and offered to teach me, at a fee such as I could afford, organ pedalling, stop registration, and technique, also harmony. I spent about two years on that and acted as his deputy, often taking the organ at choir practice whilst he conducted. He also recommended me to his organist friends, as a suitable deputy, when they went on holiday. This brought me many requests, and I thereupon got experience and practice at services in several denominations. In that deputising I was very grateful that I had played every organ which had fascinated me as a boy, except Colston Hall. 


When Mr. Snook became appointed to another church, I succeeded him as organist of Wesley, and later as choirmaster as well. I also retained my Sunday School class. The Wesley Choir was a very good one. There were usually twenty-five to thirty present at the evening service, and we could augment them for special occasions. I did my best to emulate Mr. Snook in his reverential playing of the hymns, and anthems. I know of few experiences to equal that of doing so. One can, if there is a good choir, who is in entire sympathy with the organist, and there is a large congregation, be a large factor in the whole reverential atmosphere. The choir will pick up the organists [sic] lead in tempo and expression, and the congregation be led unconsciously in accord. There is a vast difference between reverential and expressive playing, and “showing off” organ tricks while the congregation is worshipping. But it must be said that I was not sufficiently practised in technique to “show off", even if I wished to. 

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excerpt from 'The Autobiography of Harry Alfred West' pp. 34-35 (434 words)


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