John Speller's Web Pages Dale, Voluntary in C

John Speller's Web Pages - Organ Music
Dale Voluntary in C
Joseph Dale (1750-1821) was a London music publisher and organist of the Church of St. John-the-Baptist, Watling Street. This was an ancient church which burned down in the nineteenth century and seems to have left almost no trace. He was the composer of an organ concerto and of a set of Thirty Voluntaries for the Organ. The first of these was unusual, perhaps unique, in being designed to be played by the organist when his organ blower had failed to turn up. In his own words, "In case of no Blower, the organist may pull down the Bellows himself and Play this No. 1 for a Voluntary upon the Stop Diapason." Presumably the speed at which the piece was played, as well as the condition of the leather on the bellows, would determine whether the performer would get through it before the bellows emptied.

This reminds me of a story handed down by my grandmother. My great-grandfather was Churchwarden of St. George's Church, Beckington in Somerset, and at his instigation in 1893 the church bought a new organ, which is still there to this day. The "village idiot," a lad named George, was recruited as the organ blower. At the dedicatory service when it came time for the organ to sound forth for the first time the organist found that there was no wind in the bellows. "Blow, George, blow!" she shouted round the organ. "I be waiting for 'e to start playing, ma'am!" came the reply.



Two calcants blowing a large pipe organ, illustration from Praetorius's "Syntagma Musicum," 1619
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