More will be on the way, so keep watching!
A quick post to thank all those in 96 countries worldwide who have watched me on YouTube. The total of hits reached five figures a couple of days ago. 77% of these are for the four videos of eighteenth-century music on the 1764 organ at St. Mary Rotherhithe, London. Please note that the others are worth watching, too!
More will be on the way, so keep watching!
Programme Notes for organ music played at St. Mary's Dalmahoy
Sunday 1st February – Epiphany 4
Prelude: Herr Gott, nun schleuß den Himmel auf (BWV 1092) – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Communion: Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr' dahin (BWV 616) - Bach
Postlude: Fiat Lux – Theodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Tomorrow is Candlemas, when the Light of the World was presented in the Temple. Simeon's Nunc Dimittis is here presented in two Bach chorale preludes based on the hymn. The theme of light is continued in Dubois' 'Let there be light', a toccata which starts quietly and gradually builds up to a fortissimo climax.
Sunday 8th February – Epiphany 5
Prelude: Fugue in G minor (BWV 578) - Bach
Communion: Siciliano (from Flute Sonata in E flat, BWV 1031) – Bach, arr. C.H. Trevor
Postlude: Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) - Bach
Today's postlude, the most famous of all organ works, needs no introduction – or does it? Doubt was cast upon the authenticity of its authorship and upon its origins as an organ piece by Peter Williams in two talks on BBC Radio 3 in 1981. Williams suggested that it originated as a piece for solo violin in A minor by a composer of the generation following Bach. He invited the violinist Jaap Schröder to prepare a version for solo violin and it does work excellently as a violin piece!
Sunday 15th February - The Sunday before Lent (The Transfiguration)
Prelude: For the mountains shall depart ('Elijah') – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Communion: Then shall the righteous ('Elijah') - Mendelssohn
Postlude: Then did Elijah the prophet ('Elijah') - Mendelssohn
The ascension of Elijah in a 'fiery chariot, with fiery horses' going up 'by a whirlwind to heaven', the subject of our first reading, is masterfully portrayed by Mendelssohn in his famous oratorio 'Elijah'.
Wednesday 18th February - Ash Wednesday
Prelude: O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (BWV 1095) - Bach
Communion: Lent Prose (NEH 507)
Postlude: O Lamm Gottes unschuldig – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
Tonight's new moon marks the beginning of the Chinese Year of the Sheep. Christ as the 'lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world' is invoked in these two chorale preludes on a metrical version of the Agnus Dei.
Sunday 22nd February – Lent 1 Music by Estonian composers
Prelude: Ave Maria – Peeter Süda (1883-1920)
Communion: Largo – Rudolf Tobias (1873-1918)
Postlude: Maestoso – Edgar Arro (1911-1978)
Tuesday marks the 96th anniversary of the declaration of the Estonian republic in 1918, and therefore I play three pieces by Estonian composers to mark the occasion.
Arro's Maestoso was written in 1943 during the most tragic days of the Second World War when Estonia was already under occupation - an occupation which lasted until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, when Estonia regained its independence.
Sunday 1st March - Lent 2 Music by Welsh composers for St. David's Day
Prelude: Pie Jesu (Requiem) - Karl Jenkins (b. 1944)
Communion: A sad pavan for these distracted times – Thomas Tomkins (1572-1656)
Postlude: Processional – William Mathias (1934-1992)
Tomkins was born at St. David's. His 'sad pavan' was written a fortnight after Charles I's beheading. Tomkins himself felt the full force of Cromwell's military coup – the organ which he had designed at Worcester Cathedral was destroyed by Cromwell's troops and he lost his job as cathedral organist. Although he was allowed to remain in his house in the Close, he never lived to see the Restoration.
William Mathias was born in Whitland, Dyfed. From 1970-1988 he was Professor and Head of the Music Department at the University College of North Wales Bangor. He was known as a conductor and pianist and gave or directed many premières of his own works. In 1972 he founded the North Wales Music Festival at St Asaph Cathedral and remained its artistic director until his death.
Sunday 8th March - Lent 3 Music by women composers for International Women's Day
Prelude: Prelude and Fugue on 'St. Mary's' – Elizabeth Stirling (1819-1895)
Communion: Verset: 'Tantum ergo sacramentum' – Juliette Folville (1870-1946)
Postlude: Prelude and Fugue in D minor – Clara Schumann (1819-1896)
Born in Greenwich, Elizabeth Stirling was an eminent London organist of the mid-Victorian period. In 1856 she submitted her exercise for the Oxford degree of Bachelor of Music, but, although accepted, it was not performed, as Oxford at this time restricted degrees to men only (the ban on women graduates was lifted as late as 1920).
Eugénie-Emilie Juliette Folville was born in Liege, Belgium. In 1897 she took a position teaching piano at the Liege Conservatory. She lived for several years in London.
A pupil of her father Friedrich Wieck, Clara Schumann gave her first recital at the age of nine and could play the piano concertos of Mozart and Hummel from memory whilst still a child. A pianist of the first rank, married to Robert Schumann in 1840, most of Clara's compositions were for her own instrument, but her list of works include songs and string trios. The three preludes and fugues of op.16 were written in 1845 and published by her husband as a birthday present.
Sunday 15th March - Lent 4
Prelude: Irish Tune from County Derry – Percy Grainger (1882-1961)
Communion: God so loved the world ('The Crucifixion') – John Stainer (1840-1901)
Postlude: The immovable Do (or The cyphering C) – Percy Grainger
'The immovable Do' was conceived coincidentally. One morning Grainger was practising on one of his harmoniums when the mechanism of the high C broke so the instrument continuously played the tone automatically. Grainger being inventive as always improvised around the drone creating a new piece. The piece ‘draws its title from one of the two kinds of Tonic sol-fa notation. I chose the one with an ‘immovable Do’ (in which ‘Do’ always stands for C). In my composition – which is not based on any folksong or popular tune – the ‘ immovable Do’ is a high drone on C which is sounded throughout the whole piece. It seemed natural for me to plan it simultaneously for different mediums seeing that such music hinges upon intervallic appeal rather than upon effects of tone colour’. The drone on the high C's are played by wedging two pencils in the organ keys!
Sunday 22nd March - Passion Sunday
Prelude: Majesté du Christ ('L'Ascension') – Olivier Messiaen (1908-1992)
Communion: The Primerose – Martin Peerson (b.1571-73, d.1650-51)
Postlude: O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde groß (BWV 622) - Bach
The text for Messiaen's 'Majesty of Christ praying that His Father should glorify him' comes from today's Gospel. Martin Peerson's 'primrose' from the 'Fitzwilliam Virginal Book' acknowledges that last Friday night we reached the Spring Equinox, the fixed point which determines the date of Easter. Bach's hauntingly beautiful chorale prelude on 'O man thy grievous sin bemoan' comes from his 'Little Organ Book', compiled at Weimar around 1714, when he was 28 years old.
Sunday 29th March - Palm Sunday
Communion: Herzlich thut mich verlangen (BWV 727) - Bach
Postlude: In tears of grief ('St. Matthew Passion') – Bach
A chorale prelude on the famous 'Passion Chorale' during the communion is followed by the final chorus from Bach's St. Matthew Passion' as a postlude.
Programme Notes for January
(Note: 'Organist's Corner' (Organistens hjørne) was a section of the weekly parish bulletin at St. Hallvard kirke in Oslo, in which I gave the congregation some programme notes on the music performed during the service. I continued the custom on the noticeboard at Rotherhithe, and now my notes will appear in 'In Touch', the magazine of St. Mary's, Dalmahoy. Here is a pre-publication taster.)
Sunday 4th January - The Second Sunday after Christmas
Prelude: The Holy Boy – John Ireland (1879-1962)
Communion: Prelude on 'Whence is that goodly fragrance' – Harrison Oxley (b.1933)
Postlude: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (BuxWV 223) – Dieterich Buxtehude (1637-1707)
The earliest version of 'The Holy Boy' was written at Christmas 1913 and was published as 'The Holy Boy - a carol', forming the third movement of his Four Preludes for Piano. The piece was composed while Ireland was the organist at St Luke's Church, Chelsea.
Harrison Oxley's prelude on 'Quelle est cette odeur agréable' features the melody played on a 4 foot stop in the pedals, appearing to be in the middle of the romantic texture.
Buxtehude's fantasia on 'How brightly shines the morning star' is sectional and uses the whole melody twice.
Sunday 11th January - The First Sunday after the Epiphany – The Baptism of the Lord
Prelude: Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (BWV 684) – Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Communion: O come, everyone that thirsteth ('Elijah') – Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
Postlude: Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam – Johann Pachelbel (1653-1706)
The chorale prelude from 'Clavierübung III' published by Bach in 1739 is a musical painting of the moment of Jesus' baptism. The two parts in the right hand representing Jesus and John use Bach's four-note 'sign of the Cross' motif and the two are continually crossing each other. The fast-flowing line in the left hand is the river Jordan, more like a little brook ('Bach' in German!) than a large river. The chorale melody from Johann Walther's Songbook of 1524 is played by the pedals on a four-foot stop thus sounding in the middle of the texture.
Mendelssohn's oratorio Elijah was premiered in Birmingham at the Triennial Music Festival on 26 August 1846, using an English translation by William Bartholomew, who served as his text author and translator for many of his works during his time in England.
Like Bach, Pachelbel also places the melody of the chorale 'Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam' in the pedals, but this time in the usual place at the bottom of the texture, underneath some busy manual parts.
Sunday 18th January - The Second Sunday after the Epiphany
Prelude: Voluntary in D (No.1 of 'Twelve Voluntaries') – Samuel Wesley (1766-1837)
Communion: Variations on Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ – Samuel Scheidt (1587–1654)
Postlude: Impromptu no.1 in F – Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Today's first reading recounts the call of the young Samuel, so it is appropriate to play music by three composers bearing his name.
Samuel Wesley, son of Charles the hymn-writer, was born in Bristol. He was a child prodigy, writing an oratorio at the age of eight. He was one of the foremost organists of his day and was instrumental in introducing the works of Bach to England - a role later handed over to Mendelssohn, whom he met shortly before his death. Wesley’s friend Vincent Novello, founder of the publishing house, said of him : ‘Samuel Wesley was one of the greatest musical geniuses that England ever produced.' This Voluntary is in three movements.
Samuel Scheidt was born and lived for the whole of his life in Halle, where Handel was later born. Scheidt studied with the famous Dutch organist Sweelinck, whose style influenced him greatly.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor was born on 15 August 1875 in Holborn to Daniel Hugh Taylor, an African surgeon from Sierra Leone, who returned to Africa before Samuel's birth, and Alice Taylor, 'formerly Holmans'. In 1890 he won a scholarship to the Royal College of Music, originally as a student of the violin, then graduating to studying composition with the composer Sir Charles Villiers Stanford. He left the RCM as a highly-esteemed and promising young composer. His greatest success was 'Hiawatha's Wedding Feast', based on the poem by Longfellow. Between 1898 and 1907 he was chief conductor of the Croydon Symphony Orchestra and resident conductor to the Westmoreland Festival, as well as the Rochester Choral Society. In 1904 he became chief conductor to the Handel Society concerts, a post he held until his death. At the same time he served as guest conductor for performances of 'Hiawatha' (by 1904, it had been performed 200 times in England). He also lectured in Croydon, later joining Trinity College of Music (1903), Crystal Palace School of Art and Music (1905) and then the Guildhall School of Music as professor of composition. On 28 August 1912, Coleridge-Taylor collapsed at West Croydon station while waiting for a train. He died a few days later of pneumonia at his home in Croydon, on 1 September 1912, at the age of 37.
Sunday 25th January - The Third Sunday after the Epiphany
Prelude: Organ Sonata no.1 (2nd movement) – Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)
Communion: Be thou faithful unto death ('St. Paul') - Mendelssohn
Postlude: Overture to 'St. Paul' – Mendelssohn
As today is also the feast of the conversion of St. Paul, two movements from Mendelssohn's oratorio of the same name are appropriate. Composition of the music began in 1834, and the work was premiered on May 22, 1836 at the Lower Rhenish Music Festival in Düsseldorf. The English premiere was in Liverpool on October 3, 1836 in a translation by Mendelssohn's friend, Karl Klingermann.
Paul Hindemith's Organ Sonata no.1 was written in 1937, one of only three works he composed for the organ. His style has been described as neoclassical, but is very different from the works by Igor Stravinsky labelled with that term, owing more to the contrapuntal language of Johann Sebastian Bach and Max Reger than the Classical clarity of Mozart.
A merry Christmas to all followers of my website and YouTube channel!
I'm looking forward to working with old friends and new in the coming year as organist (regular and deputy), choirmaster, accompanist and teacher in the Edinburgh area.
I'm now on Facebook (facebook.com/alanmusicteacher) and Twitter (@alanjohnphill), so use the buttons at the top of my website if you want to contact me that way. I'm also on LinkedIn (uk.linkedin.com/in/alanjohnphillips).
See you next year!
At last, I've got round to posting YouTube videos from my new organ at St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Dalmahoy, Edinburgh. All are popular wedding pieces.
Jesu, joy of man's desiring
The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba
The Flower Duet from Lakmé
Music lists and pictures of the organ and church can be found here.
By the way, I do have a playlist of wedding pieces on YouTube to help with choosing music for the Big Day!
https://www.facebook.com/alanmusicteacher is now online!
What does one do with all the outtakes from YouTube videos?
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!