West Gallery Music Association
Home   About Us   What's New   Calendar   Quires   Articles   Publications   Resources   Pictures   Discussion Forum   Links

From The Chequers **

by W.W.Martin

(Relates to the introduction of new barrel organ)

Biddenden people were not quite content with their choir and orchestra. There was nothing to be said against either, as far as I can recollect; but they were perhaps rather a progressive congregation, and they wanted an organ. Since nobody in the village could play the organ, it had of necessity to be a mechanical device, something after the type of a musical box of the early Victorian day where one turns a handle and a merry tune tinkles forth. They saved their money, and bought their organ. It could play quite a number of hymn tunes; one among them being the 'Old Hundredth'.

It was arranged at a meeting on the Saturday before the introduction into the Sunday service that the 'Old Hundredth' should be played by the Organ and sung by the choir and congregation before the sermon.

The organist turned the handle, the organ boomed forth the tune, the choir and such of the congregation, who were not too overcome by surprise at such wondrous proceedings, sang to its accompaniment. Verse after verse they sang, the volume of sound filling the whole Church. The preacher at the beginning of the last verse entered the pulpit. The last line was sung, the choristers ceased, also the congregation, but not so the organ, on it went grinding out its tune remorselessly.

The preacher waited for the verse to end, the organist tugged at this, pulled at that, but no sooner did it end one verse than it began another. The clerk came forward to lend a hand, but without success. It simply went back to the beginning of the verse and played it all over again. The preacher looked angry, the congregation fidgeted, the boys whispered, the girls giggled, but two of the strongest members of the Congregation came out of their pews and with the help of the organist and clerk deposited the still playing organ in the Churchyard.

The sermon proceeded, though the now hushed and solemn notes of the 'Old Hundredth' still strayed in through the half-shut windows.

**NOTE: The Chequers was a public house in High Halden in Kent, where the author grew up, and not far from Biddenden. A similar story was found in a history of a Sussex village.


Home page   |   Resources Index   |   Books Index   |   Recordings Index   |   Literary References