Anglican Parish of St. Peter

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Music at St. Peter's

Under the direction of Sandra Gereau, St. Peter's has a very active music program designed to provide choral and organ music for the  11 am Sunday  morning Eucharist, monthly Evensong, as well as other liturgical celebrations at Ash Wednesday, Tenebrae, Good Friday and Christmas Eve.  The Choir also provides Lessons and Carols services at Advent, Christmas and Lent.  The Choir participates in Parish Outreach with visits to Pine Grove and St. Anne's Court. Although at its core are works from the Anglican musical tradition, a wide variety of musical styles are represented in the choral program, including weekly use of Anglican chant to twentieth century anthems. The Choir routinely learns 40-50 new pieces of music each year. Currently the Choir has eight members.

Henry Jones Organ - 1835

As part of the Oxford Movement and Gothic revival in the Anglican church, a new emphasis was placed on small parishes participating in the musical life of the Church. Throughout the nineteenth century there was a second tier of organ builders (as opposed to the builders of the great cathedral organs) who specialized in building small chapel or chamber organs that were especially designed for small parish and private use.   Although these organs exhibited new and modern technologies their outward design was gothic, rustic and antiquated.  The price of the smaller organs made them affordable for small churches, to be given as memorials and gifts.

Henry Jones Organbuilder

Henry Jones was born in Folkestone, Kent on 19th May 1822, one of five children born to Pilcher Jones, a cabinet maker, and his wife Mary Hall.  Little is known of Henry's early life but at the age of sixteen he moved to London and apprenticed with  the organ builder Joseph Walker at his Francis Street works in Tottenham Court Road. In 1845 Henry Jones set up in business on his own account at 10 Pond Place in Brompton. By 1849 historical records show that he had married Susannah Spain, begun a family and took on an apprentice, one William Davis. The indenture for this apprenticeship is still in the Kensington Library archive.

Much of his early work consisted of rebuilding older instruments.  During the 1850's we have records of a few small organs being built but the breakthrough came in 1861 with the contract for the large instrument at St. Matthew's Church, Bethnal Green (destroyed in the Blitz) and the instrument built for the International Exhibition of 1862. This latter instrument has been altered much over the years but still exists, although in an unplayable state, at Christchurch, Reading. It won special commendation at the exhibition for "Power and Tone".

Other contracts followed and Jones moved his expanding business and expanding family to 136 Fulham Road, Brompton, with a new works established a few yards further east in an old 'floor cloth manufactory'. From these new works came a steady stream of one- and two-manual organs with the occasional larger showpiece. Amongst these were the instruments for St. Matthias, Earls Court (1872, destroyed in the Blitz), for the International Exhibition of 1872 (broken up in 1912), the Grand Organ for the Royal Aquarium (1876 - broken up in 1909) and the large organ for the Servile Priory in Fulham Road which survived until 1967.

In 1881 the firm produced a catalogue which listed 306 organs of which 106 were in London, 184 in the provinces and 17 had been shipped abroad. During the 1880's much of the business was taken over by the eldest son, Henry Spain Jones, whilst the older Henry, now in his sixties, began to concentrate on individual instruments. In 1885 he built a tracker instrument for the Inventions Exhibition in Kensington. This organ was noted for its exceptionally light touch and thereafter went to one of the London Music Colleges.

In 1886 Jones received the invitation to build an organ for the National Art Treasures Exhibition in Folkestone. The work of a Master Organ Builder at the pinnacle of his career, this organ was for the exhibition in his own home town, and was destined to be one of his finest.

Jones continued to work until well into his seventies. The last organ to receive his personal attention was at the Bencher's Chapel, Grays Inn in 1894 (destroyed in the Blitz). He died on May 18th 1900 and is buried in the family grave in the Brompton Cemetery, London.   His obituary was published in the "Organ and Choirmaster" of June 1900. A more personal letter appeared in one of the Folkestone broadsheets from the Rev. Edward Husband, a lifelong friend:

A kinder, more straightforward man we have yet to find. His genial presence was always so bright and cheerful. It was not so long ago that he said to me, "Thank God I have so enjoyed life - I have had such a happy life." He was a kind and worthy gentleman and a trusty friend.

Some brief organ trivia

There was an 1881 opus list mentioned above but there was also an additional 1906 list which took notice of organs produced by the company Henry Jones and sons.  In total, there were approximately 437 organs built by the company of which 119 are still in active service, 170 have been superseded by upgrades or replaced with other instruments, and 148 are no longer used or were transferred to other churches or destroyed.

Many Jones' organs (about 106) were placed in small parish churches in London suburbs - many were destroyed the Blitz during the Second World War.  Some churches recorded the date of destruction, but one Catholic church Our Most Holy Redeemer and St Thomas More church in Chelsea noted that the organ took the direct hit of the bomb. Another church recorded its "destruction by enemy action" 17 April 1941

Of the 17 organs shipped abroad - St. Peter's organ is the only one left in Canada (actually in North America - from my research in the historical organ databases)   - the others were sent to New Zealand and Australia - 6 of which are still played.

Henry Jones provided an organ for Madame Toussaud's Wax Gallery  - there was a special concert series during tourist season as well as daily concerts; sometimes the organ music was used to "set the mood"  (I often think of Vincent Price's movie House of Wax)

Henry Jones had a very famous friend - Arthur Sullivan (of Gilbert and Sullivan fame). Sullivan helped Jones design two organs for St. Nicholas Church in Child Okeford and St. Agnes church in Elmswell.  Arthur Sullivan was one of the founders of the Royal College of Music in London and commissioned Jones to build four instruments for the College.  

Henry Jones' instruments are acquiring a new life in the countries of the former Soviet Union.  During Soviet times churches were often turned into warehouses or anything other than churches with the decor either destroyed or shipped away.  An 1871 Jones organ was given to the Russian Gnessin Academy of Music in Moscow; and All Saints Anglican church in Farmborough donated their 1870 Jones organ to a Missionary Society in Rumania.  Other Jones organs have been relocated to Barneveld, the Netherlands and France.

The Henry Jones Organ at St. Peter's

The date of the organ leads to a bit of a quandry - the oldest Henry Jones organ  in England is 1848 for the Weslyan Chapel at Canterbury although the 1865 organ at the United Reformed Church in Sittingbourne  may be as old as 1842.  The date for our instrument of 1835 even pre-date's Henry Jones apprenticeship.  Obviously this organ was a rebuilt Walker organ -  this is a common practice for the early instruments of new organ builders to be rebuilds of their apprenticeship organ.  I'm still doing a lot of research on the date issue - the date 1835 is on the organ bellows   As for the age of the organ , I have not found a reference to any other 2 manual organ in Canada that is being used for church services that is older than 1835.  (Our organ tuner Jean-Francois Mailhot also confirmed that out instrument is the oldest 2 manual organ in Canada)

It is still not known exactly when the organ came to Fredericton.  I'm still conducting research at the provincial archives to see if I can find a reference to the instrument - more to follow.  There is also an issue of whether this instrument is the "Medley organ" or if Bishop Medley brought more than one. The organ has traveled from Fredericton to Westfield where it was played at the Anglican and the Catholic church and then went to St James the Less in Renforth  and then back to Fredericton for St. Peter's.