Friday, 17 July 2015

18th & 19th July -Organ

Classical Break - Organ #1

Hello and welcome to Classical Break. You're listening to Somer Valley FM and I'm Rupert Kirkham.

John Philip Sousa

John Philip sousa - the liberty bell

I know! If you're old, you'll remember this as the theme tune to the Monty Python's Flying Circus tv show in the 70's - yes it was that long ago...; if not, thanks for listening and stay with us!

That performance of John Philip Sousa's The Liberty Bell, arranged for organ by Martin Setchell, was given by Christopher Cipkin, a senior librarian from the University of Birmingham, who is also a freelance organist playing the Christchurch organ in Frome. He was one of 3 organ rectalists at this year's Frome festival, the other two playing at St. John the Baptist in the centre of town.
Christopher Cipkin

 I managed to record two of these recitals in full - and we'll be hearing music from them both later on.

We'll also have more twentieth century organ and choral music from Oxford by Herbert Howells and there's news of a free organ recital in Bath Abbey next Wednesday.

First, let's kick off with a rousing performance of a piece by Marcel Dupre played by John Scott on the organ of St.Paul's Cathedral, London.
Interior of Marcel Dupre's house
 Dupre wrote this in 1914 during the first year of the first world war - another reason for playing it today.

It's one of his three Prelude and Fugues, which some say are Dupre's finest contributions to the organ repertory. It's written in B Major - a defiant, soul-stirring work, which would make anybody's neck-hairs stand on end - especially, I suspect, the organist's!
Dupre at the organ of St. Sulphice

Dupre - prelude and fugue in B major

Prelude and Fugue in B Major, by Marcel Dupre, played on the organ of St Pauls in London by John Scott.

Back to the recitals given at the Frome Festival. We heard one at the start of the programme recorded in Christchurch, well this next one was recorded at St John's church, in the centre of town.

It's a nice little organ, requiring some attention, apparently - sounded alright to me - so the recital was an opportunity to donate to the organ fund.

The organist, Brian Martin, has been involved in the restoration of instrument over the last few years; he lives near Westbury where he moved to from North London a few years ago.
Brian Martin
We're going to hear him play ELEGY, by George Thalben-Ball. Thalben-Ball was at one time assistamnt to Sir Walford Davies at London's Temple Church. Walford Davies reputedly once asked George, who was a bit of a wizz at extemporization, to play 'something nice' before evensong, as he was feeling rather tired.This is what he came up with...
George Thalben-Ball
Elegy - G.T. Thalben-ball

George Thalben-Ball's Elegy, played during the Frome festival at St John the Baptist church by Brian Martin. We'll hear more from this local organist later in the programme.

Next up, a piece by Herbert Howells. He once said "The most persistent, level, satisfying and effective things in the history of our music have often centred around our organ lofts and church musicians."
Herbert Howells
Howells wasn't a practising church or cathedral organist, but many of his contemporaries were - George Thalben-Ball, whose Elegy we just heard, were. He wrote a great deal of sacred music and his skill was not only in setting the same canticles in original ways, but his added dimension, was to compose music for places. He called it, translating the frozen poetry of architecture into the living sounds of voices in consort".

New College Chapel
A good example of this is his settings of the Magnificat and Nunc Dimittis - the Anglican evening service. We're going to hear his setting of the Magnificat, designed for the chapel of New College, Oxford, where, incidentally, I gained my appreciation of traditional music as a chorister - far too long ago to mention.

New College Chapel from the organ loft
I do remember, though, it was one of the pieces we loved to sing and when we put the service sheets out in the chapel at the start of every week, we would scan them to see what we were going to sing every day that week. If it was Palestrina or Tallis, (I hadn't realised at the age of 11 how marvellous these composers were) we were depressed - it was going to be a bad week. If there was some Benjamin Britten, Tippet, Stanford or Howells, it was going to be a good week! Everything's very simple at that age.

New College Chapel organ, Oxford
 So here's Howell's setting of the Magnificat from his 'New College' service.

Howells - new college, magnificat

The Choir of New College, Oxford, recorded back in 1987 under its director and organist, Dr Edward Higginbottom, singing the Magnificat from his 'New College' service.

From Oxford back down to Frome now, for the second piece of our Frome festival recital by Christopher Cipkin at Christchurch.
Charles Villiers Stanford
It's by Irish composer, Charles Villiers Stanford, a contemporary of Herbert Howells, Marcel Dupre, George Thalben-Ball and Edward Elgar - whose music we'll be hearing in a while.

The Eroica Sonata for organ was dedicated to another famous organist and composer, 'Charles Marie Widor - and the great country to which he belongs'. The piece (and I'm quoting from Christopher's programme notes here)'weaves fantasy and toccatta writing around his sonata-form development of the patriotic Marseillaise theme - the French National anthem and the battle song of the French Revolution.
Stanford-Verdun from eroica sonata
That was first performed under the baton of Stanford himself in a concert dedicated to his countrymen, the Irish Guards, in 1918. Christopher Cipkin on the organ of Christchurch, Frome during the 2015 Frome Festival.

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Next, Brian Martin plays the Triumphal March from Caractacus,by Edward Elgar, arranged for organ by Bryan Hesford. The theme is the heroic resistance to the Roman invasion of Britain by Caratacus and his subsequent arragnment in Rome.
Edward Elgar
It's all set round here in the cotswolds, the Malvern Hills and the banks of the River Severn - apart from the Rome bit of course - Worcester being Elgar's home town.

The Triumphal March from Caratacus, by Edward Elgar played by Brian Martin on the organ of St. John's Church, Frome.

Elgar - triumphal march of caractacus

The triumphal march of Caractacus , by Edward Elgar.

Next, from Christchurch again, Christopher Cipkin plays some Purcell - it's the only non-20th century music in this programme, but we mustn't lose sight of the fact that the organ has been around with us - and in particular in our religious and political lives for a very long time.

After the chaos and austerity that  followed the English Civil war, the monarchy was eventually restored and Henry Purcell was part of a new generation of composers who reflected the often flambouyant confidence of the new regime. In 1689, he succeeded John Blow as organist of Westminster Abbey and three years later, was appointed organist of the Chapel Royal as well.
Henry Purcell
The next piece is his 'Trumpet Tune' from a five act opera 'King Arthur' that he wrote with the then poet laureate, John Dryden.

Purcell - trumpet tune from king arthur

The Trumpet tune from Purcell's opera, King Arthur, played by Christopher Cipkin on the organ of Christchurch, Frome.

Thanks to Brian Martin and Christopher Cipkin for allowing me to record those recitals at the Frome festival and use them on this programme.

Coming up, news of an organ recital happening next week in Bath, but first, here's another piece by Herbert Howells, called Jacob's Brawl. It's a transcript by Edward Higginbottom from an original score for the Clavichord.

Jacob's brawl

Jacob's Brawl, by Herbert Howells.

Next Wednesday, July 22nd, there's another organ rectal, not in Frome this time but on the Klais organ at Bath Abbey.
Richard Dunster-Sigtermans

It's being given by Richard Dunster-Sigtermans, no stranger to Bath, as he told me when I spoke to him on the phone earlier this week
Richard Dunster-Sigtermans interview

Richard Dunster-Sigtermans who will be performing at Bath Abbey next Wednesday at 1.10 pm till 2 - a lunchtime concert and it's free, so if you're intown that day or you facny a trip over to Bath, it'll be well worth it. So that's Bath Abbey at ten past one, on Wednesday, July 22nd. Apologies if you're listening to a repeat of this programme and you've missed it!
Bah Abbey - Klais organ
We're going to leave you today with another piece by Herbert Howells from a transcription of his Howells Clavichord collection - dedicated pieces he wrote for all his friends and contemporaries he admired. This one, as the name suggests is dedicated to William Walton.

I hope you enjoyed this week's organ special - Classical Break will be back next weekend. I'm Rupert Kirkham. Goobye.

Howells-Walton's toye

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