Simon Lindley, Master of the Music at Leeds Parish Church and Leeds City Organist, looks back in affection on Binsey.
Taking the title absolutely literally, this article would have to be about my first "big break" at the organ of the fashionable Holy Trinity Church, Sloane Street (where I served as Assistant for eighteen months in the mid-1960's.
But my earliest work was in and around Oxford where I grew up in idyllic surroundings during the early part of my father's long period of service as Vicar of St Margaret's and Chaplain of St Hugh's College.
A very fair salary attached itself to my work as Choirmaster (not Organist) of St Margaret's in my teens - a post held in tandem with playing every Sunday afternoon at a glorious village Church just outside the city of dreaming spires.
This was at the isolated hamlet of Binsey (venue of Lewis Carroll's celebrated treacle mines). This exquisite Church (also dedicated to St Margaret) lies at the end of a long, twisting lane reached fairly easily from North Oxford along Canal and River Bank (for about twelve Sundays each year!) - water necessitated a much longer journey through and round the City the rest of the time.
Binsey gave me what every young organist should have - time to learn, space to develop some of the craft's elusive skills and - above all - friendly and generous encouragement.
The Perpetual Curate, Father Arnold Mallinson, held the post in plurality with St Frideswide's in West Oxford (where he had been Vicar for well over thirty years).
A real Oxford 'character'. Arnold was a complete "one-off" liturgically and would add hymns and music during an otherwise pre-planned service entirely at whim.
His was a liturgical sense of the "hay and dray" school though he was always careful to stick - fairly closely - to the Prayer Book for the weekly Evensong.
We ploughed our way through the dear Old Cathedral Psalter, with only the occasional Communion on "Sacrament Sunday": the services were trad, and that was how the villagers - and the visitors - liked it.
The harmonium was good-looking but temperamental and I put it through its paces in a jolly mix of keyboard rep to which folk were kind enough to listen.
Previous experience of hymnody for me had been English Hymnal in the morning and Mirfield Mission Hymn Book at night. Binsey took me through the highways and byways of A & M Standard and Arnold kindled early my love of Victorian tunes and my unstinting admiration for the work of Henry Smart and the rest - both of which remain, happily, undiminished.
I remember thinking myself Oxford's answer to musicology when the Stanley voluntaries emerged in the facsimile re-print edited by Denis Vaughan unadorned by the "extras" provided by Harry Wall and others. Above all, the job taught me the importance of relating the organist's contribution to the pastoral care of the parishioners.
It early dawned on me that, as organists, ours was - indeed is - clearly a very privileged position: we are, all of us, in the frame at some of the most intimate moments in the life of a family, embryonic or established. Being deprived of any electricity for purposes both of light and power, it fell to me (as the tallest of stature) to deal with the vagaries of the oil lamps which hung suspended from the wooden roof timbers whose ample crevices must have housed dozens of species of bat to judge from the different dive-bombing techniques they employed upon us all.
Arnold was, in general terms, very animal-friendly. The Church door was, always, left open during services with occasionally hilarious results: Father's sense of optimism refused to admit of any difficulty. The singing was very nearly always home-grown, but the late chance to enlist the help of fellow-schoolboys from Magdalen - and, on one very memorable occasion, a number of the New College Lay clerks including James Bowman - brought fully choral harmony to the almost detached Chancel at the East End, the plaster of which was a great enhancement. For the Festal Masses we used English Gradual propers arranged to psalm tones by Francis Burgess (Captain Burgess whom Arnold had known in the First War).
The friendship of Father Mallinson meant more than words could say; his perception was critical, his demeanour kindly, his reaction always unpredictable.
He played for time in conversation by a di-syllabic "Ad-dah" which, interpreted was, (either) good-bye, hello, or - more usually - "just a few minutes while I think over the implications of that hairbrain scheme".
Arnold had a wide circle of young friends and proteges - to us all, in equal and full measure he brought an enthusiasm for the past, a conviction in and for the present and a sense of the spiritual and numinous for which - every day I live - I, and many others, remain deeply and profoundly grateful.