Many decades ago, as a family, we used to attend Hope Baptist Church in Bridgend, my grandfather Stanley Simmonds was a deacon and organist of the church and we attended faithfully three times every Sunday through the 1960s and early 70s. Although my grandfather was the regular organist, my mother, Betty Stokes, was his deputy and would usually play for any special services, particularly when my grandfather became elderly and less able to cope with the more complicated music sometimes required for these services. The organ was a Norman & Beard two-manual, tracker-action instrument with full pedalboard and foot operated combination pedals, a fine instrument originally intended for a college chapel in one of the university cities but somehow ended up at Hope instead. The photograph shows my mother at the console of the organ in 1973.
My father, John, was very interested in the recording technology of the day and in the late 1950s had purchased a very expensive Grundig 4-track reel-to-reel tape recorder, with this machine and an expensive Shure microphone he recorded many events at the Church. It wasn’t long before the Grundig no longer satisfied his requirements as stereo recordings were now becoming the thing of the moment. A new recorder was purchased, an Akai X-150D reel-to-reel machine capable of recording stereo and with a larger reel size could make longer recordings. Over the years from about 1966 to around 1977 Dad recorded various events at the church, usually Sunday School anniversaries and Christmas, but a few other choral occasions were captured also.
Some months ago I felt it was time we listened to these tapes again and to perhaps digitise them to a format suitable for listening on modern devices. However, the Akai tape recorder was dead, at over forty-five years old it was inevitable it was not going to perform so I had to try and find someone capable of repairing it. After a lot of internet searching I discovered a place in Sussex which had good reviews and after a chat with the proprietor took the plunge and sent the machine by courier to him. It was not all plain sailing as on return it developed a completely different fault and had to be returned again, but now I’m happy to say I have a machine that’s as good as new, actually it looks like new, my father had really looked after it well. Slowly I have been digitising the available tapes, however, there do appear to be several missing, as to their whereabouts I have no idea but we have to be grateful for those we do have. Tapes from 1966 to 1970 have been located as well as those for 1974, but sadly 1971 to 1973 and 1975 to 1977 are missing.
The Christmas tapes of 1967 through to 1970 make interesting listening, my mother is organist for most of these and as it’s Christmas I thought I’d share a popular carol with you here today. Recorded during the evening service on Sunday 20th December 1970 you can hear my mother on the organ playing for the Church Augmented Choir and a very full congregation singing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” (click on the link). Forty-five years on my mother, at ninety-one, is currently struggling with a chest infection but is slowly improving and should be up and about again in a few days time, in the meantime Happy Christmas Mum, I know this year’s celebration will not be how you would have wanted to spend it, but in your own bed is a much happier solution than a hospital one!