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Happy 90th Birthday, Dr Jackson!


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There was a wonderful evening in York Minster on Monday in Dr.Jackson's honour. My wife and I went expecting a few little items from a variety of players followed by a private reception in FJ's honour. What we got was a very fine recital by John Scott Whiteley, the programme of which consisted entirely of the contents of a new volume (published complete with CD by Banks) of works written in Francis Jackson's honour by musicians with York or Percy Whitlock Society connections. It is the perfect musician's equivalent of a University Festschrift.

 

These sort of productions can be at best a pretty mixed bag...you know the sort of thing: 12 pieces in an exciting-looking volume with maybe two that are worth learning. Well, in this case I think virtually every contributor fully rose to the challenge and has produced something of real merit. Four or five of the items are nothing less than important additions to the repertoire (or I'm no judge) and the remainder are worth having for lighter contrast. Not all the pieces are difficult, some even sight-readable by anyone competent. The cost - £13 odd (my wife paid) - so if I've caught your imagination with this unbiased write-up, I suggest you send off for one before the copies with CDs run out! The cost of the accompanying CD was bourne by Geoffrey Coffin of Principal Pipe Organs...yes it is that sort of production!

 

The audience was full of famous faces, some had travelled a good two hundred miles to be there. It was a really splendid 'do' - and Francis just thought he was going to the Minster for a rehearsal for the public event which happens tonight! Nobody deserves this more.

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Yes, it certainly was a night to remember. The whole point of the evening was to keep it a secret, but it was anyone's guess as to whether FAJ would find out, and as Paul points out he did not!

 

John's playing was great, it was such an enormous task for him as the entire recital was brand new repertoire. One piece in particular stood out for me, being the Passacaglia by Andrew Carter. I probably know these pieces as well as John now as I was dragged in to help out with the recording, therefore hearing the pieces many times over, and every time I hear it it grows on me even more.

 

Francis' ad lib speech after the recital was great. His opening line "Well, I wonder what you would do if you were in my position" had everyone in stitches.

 

Here are some pictures of the evening. I think if you click on the pictures it enlarges them.

 

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Paul Hale presents Dr. Jackson with 'Fanfare For Francis'

 

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The Doctor

 

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John Scott Whiteley, Francis Jackon, Philip Moore

 

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Roger Fisher

 

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(Left to right) John Barry's sister (whose name escapes me) Richard Shephard, Paul Hale, Malcolm Riley, Noel Rawsthorne, Simon Lindley, Francis Jackson, Robin Walker, Priscilla Jackson, John Scott Whiteley, Alan Spedding, Philip Moore, Robert Gower, Andrew Carter

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PS Is anyone here coming to the 90th Celebration Concert for Dr Francis Jackson tonight in the Minster? Music for choir and organ by Bairstow and Jackson, Philip conducting with John and me on the organ.

 

Yes, I was there - and what an excellent evening it was. I only found about it on Monday night by happening to visit the Minster web site. The piece that really impressed me was FJ's Audi Filia with which the official concert ended. It's a piece I have never heard before, but I found it had great depth and was very moving, especially as he wrote it to be performed at his own wedding. The way the solo treble emerged from the organ chords between sections was magical - much assisted by the acoustics, of course.

 

As an encore, the man himself jumped on to the organ stool and played a Bairstow piece - which I am very familiar with but whose name escapes me. This appeared to be a genuinely impromptu affair, as he played it without the dots (which I haven't seen him do elsewhere). As is often the case with Francis, it wasn't entirely without incident, but it was thoroughly musical and compelling.

 

And if I may say so, Richard, I thought you accompanied the choir very sensitively.

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Yes, I was there - and what an excellent evening it was. I only found about it on Monday night by happening to visit the Minster web site. The piece that really impressed me was FJ's Audi Filia with which the official concert ended. It's a piece I have never heard before, but I found it had great depth and was very moving, especially as he wrote it to be performed at his own wedding. The way the solo treble emerged from the organ chords between sections was magical - much assisted by the acoustics, of course.

 

As an encore, the man himself jumped on to the organ stool and played a Bairstow piece - which I am very familiar with but whose name escapes me. This appeared to be a genuinely impromptu affair, as he played it without the dots (which I haven't seen him do elsewhere). As is often the case with Francis, it wasn't entirely without incident, but it was thoroughly musical and compelling.

 

And if I may say so, Richard, I thought you accompanied the choir very sensitively.

 

Thank you, I hope thats a good thing and not just too quiet!

 

Francis played Bairstow's Prelude in C. Highlight for me was seeing John's face when he realised that all his settings for Audi Filia had been erased! (Hence the long pause beforehand)

 

This was another night to remember, and it was extrememly moving to see so many people there for such a great man.

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Dear Richard,

 

The woman on your group photo of 1 October is not John Barry's wife, but his sister (as I was told).

It certainly was a unique event, this launch of "Fanfare for Francis". John Scott Whiteley gave a splendid performance.

Dr. Jackson must be the oldest organist of Europe who is still giving recitals, maybe even of the world!

 

Gerco Schaap, Baarn, The Netherlands

Vice president of the Percy Whitlock Trust

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