Calling all musicians!
My first concert of the year takes place at the City of London church of St. Mary at Hill on 7 February at 13.05. Admission is free.
The instrument is a William Hill organ dating from 1848, and restored by Mander after a disastrous fire in 1988.
My programme consists of two pieces from the 'Gorgeous Georgians'. two from the period in which the organ was built, and two to reflect St. Mary at Hill's link with Billigsgate fish market and the sea.
Voluntary 3 - John Bennett (1735-1796)
Organist of St. Dionis Backchurch 1752, in succession to Charles Burney. His set of 'Ten Voluntaries for the Organ or Harpsichord' was published privately in 1758. A long and distinguished list of 228 subscribers included Handel himself, and also Michael Topping, who later became the first organist (1765) of St. Mary Rotherhithe. Voluntary 3 opens with a slow movement for diapasons, followed by a substantial movement for the cornet, the whole voluntary being rounded off with a partial reprise of the diapason movement.
Voluntary 1 (1812 set) - William Russell (1777-1813)
One of the two sons of the organ builder Hugh Russell, William was organist of the Foundling Hospital and of St. Anne’s, Limehouse. He published two books of twelve voluntaries, one in 1804 and the other in 1812. Russell’s style is typical of the Regency period. The first voluntary of the 1812 set is a trumpet voluntary, unusually in a minor key, and is in three movements.
Choral Song in C – Samuel Sebastian Wesley (1810-1876)
Due to Samuel Wesley's keenness for Bach's music, he named his son Samuel Sebastian, who became organist of a number of Anglican cathedrals. This well-known Choral Song was written in 1842 while S.S. Wesley was organist of Exeter Cathedral. The set of pieces from which this is taken was written for his pupil Lady Acland of Killerton House, just outside Exeter, which still possesses the chamber organ installed for her. Unfortunately the pieces proved too difficult for Lady Acland and Wesley had to write another easier set!
War March of the Priests (Athalia) – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Commissioned by the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, the incidental music to Athalia was intended for a private performance of the play by Jean Racine. The music Mendelssohn wrote consists of an overture, a march and six vocal pieces. The choruses were originally composed for female voices with piano accompaniment, and were completed at Leipzig in 1843. In June of the following year and during a visit to London, Mendelssohn wrote the overture and the march with the expectation that the drama would be brought out on the stage at Berlin; and after his return there, he completed the work by rearranging the choruses for four voices and scoring them for full orchestra. This Victorian organ arrangement of the March is by Charles Steggall.
Penguins' Playtime – Nigel Ogden
Nigel Ogden is an organist and radio broadcaster in the UK who presents 'The Organist Entertains' on BBC Radio 2. Inspired by theatre organists such as Reginald Dixon, he took up playing the organ at the age of 12, and was first heard on 'The Organist Entertains' in 1972. In 1980, he took over as the regular presenter of the show, following the retirement of the programme's founder and first host, Robin Richmond.. 'Penguin's Playtime' was published in 1989.
Hornpipe Humoresque – Noel Rawsthorne (b.1929)
Subtitled 'A Nautical Extravaganza for Organ', this piece by the former organist of Liverpool Cathedral is based on the well-known 'Sailor's Hornpipe'. However, there are 'guest appearances' by Bach, Vivaldi, Widor and others along the way!
The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year C, follows on from the last two Sundays, and deals with the third great theme of the Epiphany after the visit of the Magi and the baptism of Jesus by John: the wedding at Cana. I therefore play three pieces from the usual wedding repertoire – Pachelbel's famous Canon, 'Jesu, joy' and the Widor Toccata. All the hymns are related in some way to weddings and wedding feasts, and the communion hymn reminds us that we are in the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity.
The orderly reading of Luke's Gospel in Ordinary Time begins on the Third Sunday. On this Sunday, I play three pieces from the 'Gorgeous Georgians', two Regency pieces by William Russell, and an earlier voluntary by John Bennett.
The Fourth Sunday features Paul's great paean to love - 1 Corinthians 13 - hence Elgar's 'Salut d'amour'! The postlude, Karg-Elert's 'Nun danket', follows the singing of this hymn at the end of the service. As the previous day is Candlemas, I play the overture to Handel's Ninth Chandos Anthem, 'The Lord is my Light'.
The Fifth Sunday is also the last before Lent, Carnival Sunday in Roman Catholic countries, and so the final opportunity for alleluias before Easter. The hymn 'Alleluia, song of sweetness', with its looking forward to Lent and Easter, is the final hymn, followed by Simon Preston's exuberant 'Alleluyas', based on the final verse of 'Let all mortal flesh keep silence'. I play a Serenade written by my composition teacher at Bristol University, Dr. Derek Bourgeois, for his own wedding, and a composition of mine during the communion – heavily influenced by 'The Lark Ascending'!