Composite Recital 2021

It was on a dark evening on the 20th February 2021 that fifty intrepid organists made the long and perilous journeys from their sofas to their desks to participate in the SSLSO’s annual “Composite Recital”. In years past this had been held in Penge Congregational Church, but this year, due to Covid-19 restrictions, it was held via Zoom. Nineteen people had submitted recorded pieces covering a very satisfying range of periods and styles, and even included pieces beautifully played on piano by some of our younger participants. It was a great joy to hear so many composers ranging from the well-known “Anon 17C”, taking in such luminaries as Purcell, Buxtehude, Bach, Brahms, Elgar, Dupré, Franck, and Howells, to Philip Glass and an expertly crafted trio sonata by our own committee member Peter Smith, which, he explained, is still work in progress, but which I am sure many of us will want to try in due course. Being able to watch the score unfold as Peter played was a great benefit. Richard kept the programme flowing very expertly, but even he seemed to exhaust his stock of superlatives as the evening progressed! It was indeed a very memorable recital. I estimate that we heard from 16 different instruments, ranging from piano and several home-practice instruments up to the magnificent organ at St Bavo’s Haarlem. And we covered some 400 years of music. In sheer variety and scope this definitely put the nine organ recital at Westminster Cathedral a couple of years ago into the shade ! The second part of the evening was devoted to a talk by William McVicker, curator of the Royal Festival Hall organ. His subject was “The Classical Revival” and he charted the stormy trajectory of organ building and design in the early part of the 20th Century, culminating in the Royal Festival Hall instrument which some of us visited in August 2019. A dominant figure of the classical revival was Albert Schweitzer and several of our members mentioned that his tempi, prizing clarity above brute speed, had been a formative influence in their own musical development. Schweitzer’s critique of the Festival Hall instrument, which achieved front-page coverage in the national press (and which needs to be read in a heavy German accent), was “She looks like a chemical factory, but she is magnificent, she is beautiful.” It was interesting to hear about the personal lives of some of the key players in the organ-building world, and speculate that had some of their personal relationships worked out differently, the young Ralph Downes studying in America would not have received the support and inspiration for his ideas which led, eventually, to the design and fulfilment of the RFH instrument. In his closing remarks Dr McVicker commented that we were currently enjoying a neoromantic revival in organ music, and suggested that a revival of interest in Hindemith’s organ works was overdue. So there’s an idea for next-year’s recital that someone might want to follow up!

John Mitchell, 2021

Performed byTitleComposer
Irene WolstenholmePassacaglia in D minBuxtehude (1637-1707)
Joe DaviesThe Duke of York’s MarchAnon (17c.)
Andrew ChadneyMaster Tallis TestamentHerbert Howell (1892-1983)
Charlie WarrenHerzlich tut mich erfreuenJohannes Brahms (1833-1897)
Andrew ChadneyAlbum LeafMartin Ball
Geremia GoverMeditationAlan Bullard
Sam GoverVesper Voluntary no3Edward Elgar (1857-1934)
Beryl BediakoAirHenry Purcell (1659-1695)
Beulah BediakoVoluntary XIDomenico Zipoli (1688-1726)
John WoodhouseElegyArthur Wills (1926-2020)
Alan LangridgePrelude in B minor BWV544J S Bach (1685-1750)
Nicky JonesTe Splendor et Virtus PatrisMarcel Dupré (1861-1971)
Ann HubbleFugue on a Russian NoelRienhold Gliere (1875-1956)
Pieter ShawMeine Seele erhebet den HerrnJ S Bach (1685-1750)
William McVickerAndantinoCésar Franck (1822-1890)
Robert BowlesAllegretto in F Op.101 no.1Charles V. Stanford (1852-1924)
Graham AnsteyMad RushPhilip Glass (1937-)
Peter SmithTrio SonataPeter Smith
Marilyn HarperPraeludium in A BuxWV151Buxtehude (1637-1707)
Norman HarperFugue on the Magnificat BWV733J S Bach (1685-1750)
Links to the performances