first woman civic organist profile concert organist diary first woman civic organist recordings first woman civic organist features
photo gallery of first woman civic organist  woman concert organist contact details jazz organist plaudits san diego civic organ links page

"While The Organ Plays At Twilight"

Carol Williams at The Plough Inn

Set in the midst of unspoilt and truly beautiful English countryside, The Plough Inn is unique in that it is the home ofthe historic 1937 Compton three-manual theatre-organ that once graced the Gaumont Cinema in London's North Finchley and gave immense pleasure to so many people when the silver screen was at its peak of popularity. Rebuilt in 1967 (complete with its Melotone) at The Plough, a "phantom" piano originally produced by Marshall & Rose for the Ambassador Cinema in Cosham near Portsmouth has been added so that there is great potential for a memorable evening of music. And this has been exploited to the full by organ-enthusiast Jeffrey MacKenzie who arranges an impressive series of concerts each year with "mine hosts" Tom and Elaine Whitear.

But it all goes a great deal further because, in addition to providing guests with a warm reception, Tom and Elaine plus their staff offer a three-course meal which is served in the beautifully laid out dining room in which the organ console is located and thereby adds colour to Jeff's evocative description that "the organ plays at twilight". Without doubt, it is in every sense an occasion to be remembered for all time but the seating capacity is limited so music-lovers who wish to attend need to make a reservation well in advance by telephoning The Plough (01920 438335) so that, on the night, guests are ushered to seats carefully allocated in advance.

But, for Jeff, the evening has barely started at this stage because he then introduces artistes in so professional a way that many an organist would be delighted to have this most able of comperes at all their concerts! And the list of organists invited by Jeff to take part in the concerts reads rather like a Who's Who of the profession and includes, amongst many others, the famous Ena Baga whose illustrious and multi-faceted career involved standing in for the one and only Reginald Dixon when he was in the Royal Air Force during World War II.

This year was the third occasion on which I have been privileged to contribute to the series and I looked forward to the occasion with much enthusiasm knowing that I would be playing to a warm and exceptionally responsive audience. And, for me, it provided a superb opportunity to exercise my "music without barriers" approach of blending theatre-organ favourites and novelty numbers with classical organ gems plus an occasional tribute to Scott Joplin and to John Philip Sousa. Or, as Jeff put it rather aptly this year, it allows me to well and truly let my hair down! And a sure-fire winner on such an occasion is Louis James Alfred Lefebure-Wely's inimitable Postlude in E flat major which symbolises the composers view that congregations should be extremely happy and should "skip" out of church after the Sunday morning service - and the church in question was St Sulpice in Paris where Lefebure-Wely was the organist immediately before Charles-Marie Widor of "wedding" toccata fame. Incidentally, Widor was the organist at this world-famous church for an almost unbelievable 63 years.

Once again, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit to The Plough. But, sadly, I have to end with a note of caution by saying that intending visitors should ask Jeff or Tom for a location map because, by any standard, The Plough is cunningly tucked away. And this year, as on each of the previous occasions, I toured the area for some considerable time before I eventually found the venue and then, in truth, I have to admit I came upon it quite by chance! But it's a superb place and well worth a visit.