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Last Sunday, I had the pleasure of performing on the 1760 George England organ of Christ's Chapel, Dulwich after Evensong.
I played four voluntaries by John Christmas Beckwith to demonstrate the various colours of the Georgian organ - diapasons (open and stopped together), trumpet (with echo), flute (at 4ft pitch), bassoon (vox humana in the lower registers), cornet (with echo) and the full organ with trumpet. The Beckwith voluntaries I recorded during my afternoon practice session, and can be seen on YouTube - go to the 'Gorgeous Georgians' page, scroll down to John Christmas Beckwith and click on the titles.
These I followed with four pieces by women composers, two of them 'Gorgeous Georgians' in their own right: Esther Elizabeth Fleet and Elizabeth Turner. It was interesting to reinterpret Turner's harpsichord 'Lesson' as an organ voluntary!
As there were not enough programmes to go round (two in all!), I had to give a running commentary, but for those who want to read it, I post it below for downloading.
From Epiphany to Lent is usually an uneventful season of 'Sundays in Ordinary Time'. However, the ordinariness of the season is broken at Rotherhithe by a Confirmation at Candlemas: a joint feast of the light of Christ and the fire of the Spirit.
The organ music is divided into three groups: in January, I play a Buxtehude mini-season, followed by two weeks of music by women composers from France and England. Finally, the two weeks before Lent are taken up with two national commemorations: Sunday 23 February is the eve of Estonia's Independence Day, so music by Peeter Suda and Edgar Arro; and Sunday 2 March is the day after St. David's day, so an all-Karl Jenkins programme of organ music and a selection of well-known Welsh hymn-tunes..
See the slideshow below for photos of some of them.
We're halfway through the season now (at the beginning if you consider Christmas doesn't end until Candlemas!), so here's the music sheet at last.
Advent 2013 sees the visits of many choirs to St. Mary Rotherhithe. A full list of these can be found on the parish website – please visit!
8 December is not only the Second Sunday of Advent, it is also the birthday of Sibelius, and the Canzonetta Choir from Joensuu, Finland, will be singing in the morning. I shall contribute to the birthday celebrations by playing Sibelius's 'Intrada' for organ and an organ arrangement of 'Finlandia'.
In honour of the distinguished composer John Tavener, who died on 12 November this year, we will be including his carol 'The Lamb' in our Service of Nine Lessons and Carols on the Fourth Sunday of Advent.
Sunday 4th August - Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prelude Humoresque 'L'organo primitivo' – Pietro Yon
Anthem Thee we adore, O hidden Saviour, thee (plainsong)
Voluntary Adoro te devote – Filippo Capocci
Capocci (1840-1911) became organist of St. John Lateran in Rome in 1875. Organ teacher at the National Academy of St. Cecilia, his pupils included Pietro Alessandro Yon (1886-1943), later organist of St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York. Capocci's 'Adoro te devote' is a large-scale piece based on the plainsong hymn. Yon's delightful Humoresque, written to be played on one 8ft flute stop only, is anything but primitive! During the Communion, the choir sings the plainsong hymn on which Capocci's piece is based.
Sunday 11th August - Nineteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prelude O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross (BWV 622) – Johann Sebastian Bach
Anthem Wait for the Lord – Jacques Berthier
Voluntary O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross (BWV Anh.61) – Johann Pachelbel
Our first hymn this morning, NEH 479, is sung to the chorale 'O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross (O man, thy grievous sin bemoan). While Bach in the Orgelbuchlein (Little Organ Book) sets the melody using a solo combination over a soft accompaniment. Pachelbel puts the chorale melody firmly in long pedal notes under a busy imitative texture. This setting was at one time attributed to Bach, hence the Anhang (appendix) number in the 'Bach Werke Verzeichnis' (BWV – Catalogue of Bach's Works). 'Wait for the Lord' is one of the beautiful chants which Jacques Berthier wrote for the ecumenical community at Taize.
Sunday 18th August - Twentieth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Prelude Organ Concerto in C (first movement) – Antonio Salieri (263rd birthday today)
Anthem Give me the wings of faith to rise (tune: San Rocco)
Voluntary Organ Concerto in C (last movement) – Antonio Salieri
Antonio Salieri (18 August 1750 – 7 May 1825), whose birthday we celebrate today, was appointed director of the Italian opera by the Habsburg court in Vienna, a post he held from 1774 to 1792, at the same time that Mozart was also there. As one of Beethoven's teachers, Salieri is my own great-great-great-great grand-teacher!
The choir sing the hymn-tune 'San Rocco' by Derek Williams, written when he was organ scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge in 1968 for a service in Lichfield Cathedral to commemorate the college's founder, Bishop Selwyn. The tune is named after the Scuola di San Rocco in Venice, noted for its many paintings by Tintoretto, which was established in 1478 next to the church of San Rocco, from which it takes its name.
Sunday 25th August - Twenty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time
Preludes Prelude on 'Rockingham' – C.H.H. Parry
Es ist ein Ros' entsprungen (op.122 no.8) – Johannes Brahms
Communion Schmücke dich, O liebe Seele (BWV 654) – J.S. Bach
Voluntary Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme (BWV 645) – J.S. Bach
All the hymns and organ music this morning are taken from Fr Nick's funeral on 8th September 2006. Fr. Nick Richards, Rector of Rotherhithe from 1977 to 2006, died on August bank holiday weekend, since when it has become the custom in the parish to repeat his funeral music at this time.
I'm back on the organ on 30 June, having had a fortnight off recovering from a dislocated shoulder! I have sorely missed playing during this time, and the pain was not very humerus!
The first Sunday in July is kept at Rotherhithe as the Feast of Dedication. The present building was consecrated in 1715, and it is this event that we celebrate every July. It also happens to be Mahler's 153rd birthday (Happy Birthday, Gustav!), so I'm playing his gorgeous Adagietto from the Fifth Symphony before the service.
The Sauvrezis and Prestat pieces for 14 July are what I should have played last month. See last month's blog for notes.
Entertaining guests is the theme of the readings on 21 July – Sarah having to cook for three angels (angel cake?!), and Martha for Jesus. The words of the hymn 'Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme' exhort us all to be ready for the arrival of the Bridegroom. To top and tail the service, I play two great chorale preludes on it by Bach and Karg-Elert.
The Gospel for the last Sunday of the month sees Jesus teaching his disciples the familiar words of the Lord's Prayer. Luther's hymn 'Vater unser in Himmelreich' forms the basis for the Sweelinck and Mendelssohn pieces, and the anthem is a setting of the Lord's Prayer which my father, Jack Phillips, wrote when he was a school teacher from the 1950s to the 1970s – you could say it's My Father's 'Our Father'! This will be the first time it has been sung at Rotherhithe. You can find a picture of him on the Teaching page.
Bach's great fugue in E flat (usually known in England as the 'St. Anne') is my usual voluntary for Trinity Sunday, as it is full of Trinitarian symbolism: three sections, three subjects, three flats in the key-signature, time-signatures related by a factor of three; but all making one magnificent piece – truly Three in One.
June sees the re-establishment of a parish choir at St. Mary's, and it is planned that they will start on the feast of Corpus Christi.
My voluntaries for June centre around two French composers, Dubois and Franck (OK, he was actually Belgian!), and two of their pupils, Sauvrezis and Prestat.
Sunday 9 June sees the performance of Dubois' well-known Toccata, with Guilmant's Cantilène pastorale as prelude to the service. The Guilmant has happy memories for me, as it was played at our wedding at my wife's request.
The following Sunday sees the performance of two Franck pieces: The Prelude, Fugue and Variation from 'Six Pieces' (1860-62), and the Pièce héroïque from 'Three Pieces' (1878).
Alice Sauvrezis (1885-1946) was a student of César Franck, Théodore Dubois and Paul Vidal in Paris. She is mostly known for her piano music and songs, and the Choral in E major, which I play on 23 June, is perhaps her only organ composition.
Marie Josephine Claire Prestat (1862-1933), a favourite student of César Franck, was the first woman to win four first prizes at the Paris Conservatoire. These were for Harmony (1885), Accompaniment (1886), Counterpoint and Fugue (1889) and Organ (1890). She was Professor of Piano and Organ at the Schola Cantorum from 1901 until 1922. Her Prelude and Fugue in C minor concludes the service on 23 June.
The organ voluntaries for the feast of SS Peter and Paul all have suitable Petrine links. Peter Philips' early Pavana (1580, from the Fitzwilliam Virginal Book) is followed by Sweelinck's two variations on it. The celebration concludes with Mulet's great 'Tu es petra', one of the great French toccatas.
Four new YouTube videos uploaded of the 1764 Byfield organ at Rotherhithe. I'm playing three voluntaries by John Stanley and one by William Russell. Hear what 18th century organ music sounds like on an 18th century organ!
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'!