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Michael Austin


Guest Barry Oakley - voluntarily dereg
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Guest Barry Oakley

A good many years ago, I think during the 1970’s, I bought a very fine vinyl of Michael Austin playing the Birmingham Town Hall organ. The picture on the cover showed him as quite a young man. I was under the impression that he was British but he seems to have completely disappeared from the organ world. Does anyone remember him and know what ever became of him?

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I remember this recording well ; it was one of the first serious organ recordings I discovered as a teenager, and was deeply instrumental (no pun intended) in my catching the 'organ bug'.

 

The photograph on the front was wonderful for a young organ enthusiast. Austin looked very sharp in a white jacket and 70s long hair.

 

If I remember rightly, the recording was produced by Brian Culverhouse and the programme was ;

 

Toccata Adagio & Fugue in C

 

Reger Toccata and Fugue in d minor

 

Franck Final

 

Dupre B major prelude and fugue.

 

and something else ?

 

Thank you for bringing us up to date on Michael's career - I was dimly aware that he had retreated to Denmark - and for catapulting me back 30 years in time. Those were the days !

 

M

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..and a predecessor of pcnd at Wimborne...

 

Not quite - I am the Sub Organist, he was the Director of Music (or whatever he was called then). He is also a rather better player than I will ever be!

 

Apparently at his audition, he was asked to play the organ and said "What would you like to hear?". The committee thought for a moment, then someone said "How about some Bach, please?" Michael replied "Fine - what piece?" Another quick consultation and one of the interview panel suggested one of the great preludes and fugues; Michael then proceeded to play it faultlessly - and from memory.

 

Even stranger was the audition of my previous boss, Chris Dowie. He neither played the organ or even conducted the choir in a rehearsal. Richard Seal was the advisor and he turned to the panel and said "I know these referees, this candidate has excellent references - I recommend that you appoint him." This, whilst Chris was sitting in the Nave next to some of the other candidates - who were less than happy with this somewhat un-orthodox method of securing the next Organist of Wimborne Minster.

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Even stranger was the audition of my previous boss, Chris Dowie. He neither played the organ or even conducted the choir in a rehearsal. Richard Seal was the advisor and he turned to the panel and said "I know these referees, this candidate has excellent references - I recommend that you appoint him." This, whilst Chris was sitting in the Nave next to some of the other candidates - who were less than happy with this somewhat un-orthodox method of securing the next Organist of Wimborne Minster.

 

Off topic but wasn't there a situation at a major establishment some years ago when the advisor expressed his desire for the DOM post and was appointed.

 

AJJ

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Yes, Franz Liszt's B-A-C-H Prelude & Fugue.

 

He made another LP for Polydor on the same organ with repertoire by Sigfrid Karg-Elert (Kaleidoscope Op. 144, Legend Op. 141/1, Sonatina No. 1 in A minor Op. 74 and No. 4 of the Seven Pastels from Lake Constance.

 

There must have been a third LP with "Organ classics"

 

The organ was then still in its 1933 state after the rebuild by Henry Willis III. One can hear that many stops were out of tune.

 

Chandos released the organ classics and most of the first LP on CHAN 6518 and CHAN 6602 (together with old recordings of Francis Jackson). Still to be found on the Chandos website.

 

Gerco Schaap (NL)

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Guest Barry Williams
Off topic but wasn't there a situation at a major establishment some years ago when the advisor expressed his desire for the DOM post and was appointed.

 

AJJ

 

In 1921 George Oldroyd was the adviser on the vacancy at St Michael's Croydon. He expressed an interest and was appointed, holding the post until his death thirty years later.

 

Barry Williams

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I can confirm pcnd’s story about Michael Austin’s appointment. The Rector and PCC were advised principally by Antony Brown, then Director of Music at Canford. There had been a close association between Canford and the Minster as the posts of Minster Organist and Assistant DOM at the school had been combined.

 

Tony Brown was a keen Bach enthusiast and it was he who suggested the A minor to Michael. In those days, mid sixties, I shared the duties of Assistant Organist with another Canford staff member and was, in fact, asked if I was interested in the post when Michael left. I was unable to take up the offer and Barry Ferguson was appointed, at which point a change of job removed me from the scene.

 

Michael was and still is an accomplished organist, even if he had a tendency to wear a hair shirt occasionally. For a while the swell shutters were removed to allow better egress of sound, though this didn’t last too long. He ran an excellent choir at the Minster and it is no surprise that he has transported a little bit of England to Denmark.

 

David Harrison

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Off topic but wasn't there a situation at a major establishment some years ago when the advisor expressed his desire for the DOM post and was appointed.

 

AJJ

 

 

I believe you're referring to the appointment at St.Alban's where Barry Rose was on the panel, he then announced that he'd be happy to serve himself.

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I believe you're referring to the appointment at St.Alban's where Barry Rose was on the panel, he then announced that he'd be happy to serve himself.

 

And a really good job he made of it too!!

 

AJJ

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Guest Barry Williams
I believe you're referring to the appointment at St.Alban's where Barry Rose was on the panel, he then announced that he'd be happy to serve himself.

 

A friend of mine has told me this happened at All Saints' Margaret Street a few years ago.

 

Barry Williams

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Guest Barry Oakley
I can confirm pcnd’s story about Michael Austin’s appointment. The Rector and PCC were advised principally by Antony Brown, then Director of Music at Canford. There had been a close association between Canford and the Minster as the posts of Minster Organist and Assistant DOM at the school had been combined.

 

Tony Brown was a keen Bach enthusiast and it was he who suggested the A minor to Michael. In those days, mid sixties, I shared the duties of Assistant Organist with another Canford staff member and was, in fact, asked if I was interested in the post when Michael left. I was unable to take up the offer and Barry Ferguson was appointed, at which point a change of job removed me from the scene.

 

Michael was and still is an accomplished organist, even if he had a tendency to wear a hair shirt occasionally. For a while the swell shutters were removed to allow better egress of sound, though this didn’t last too long. He ran an excellent choir at the Minster and it is no surprise that he has transported a little bit of England to Denmark.

 

David Harrison

 

Thanks to the information posted by John Mander, I e-mailed Michael and received a very nice, warm reply from Jutland where he and his wife live. He now plays in a local Danish Church where he has a Frobenius-restored, four-manual tracker organ. He said it was nice to be remembered.

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  • 2 years later...

I realise that I am a little late with this one, but further to Barry Oakley’s note in which he tells us about his exchange of emails with Michael Austin, I decided recently that it was time I did the same.

 

Having sent Michael a long and probably fairly tedious epistle about my history, not having been in touch with him since 1972, he replied immediately, bringing me up to date on his own adventures. As Barry said, Michael is organist of a church in Aalborg, St Mark’s, where he has been for 30 years. He tells me that until very recently Danish organists were required, by law, to retire at the age of 70, although this is, I gather, no longer the case. Among many other things he recounted was a very interesting description of the current organ in Bach’s church at Arnstadt, which, at least for Michael’s recital there (I don’t know if it actually has an electric blower) was blown by hand with a totally steady wind supply. As he said, “don’t let anyone tell you that steady wind needs a blower”, presumably electric.

 

The main point of interest here, I hope, is that on Michael’s website there is an article which he has written about Rheinberger and his music. However, he covers musical as well as organ matters which go well beyond Rheinberger. I found it made fascinating reading about all kinds of musical ideas and I strongly recommend forum members to download it. There is much to stimulate and challenge all of us who play the organ.

 

http://www.michaelaustin.dk/about.html

 

If anyone gets round to downloading and reading the article, I would be most interested to know what they think, as indeed would Michael, who does follow the writings in the forum. I even got ticked off about my “hair shirt” comment.

 

David Harrison

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Guest Roffensis
I remember this recording well ; it was one of the first serious organ recordings I discovered as a teenager, and was deeply instrumental (no pun intended) in my catching the 'organ bug'.

 

The photograph on the front was wonderful for a young organ enthusiast. Austin looked very sharp in a white jacket and 70s long hair.

 

If I remember rightly, the recording was produced by Brian Culverhouse and the programme was ;

 

Toccata Adagio & Fugue in C

 

Reger Toccata and Fugue in d minor

 

Franck Final

 

Dupre B major prelude and fugue.

 

and something else ?

 

Thank you for bringing us up to date on Michael's career - I was dimly aware that he had retreated to Denmark - and for catapulting me back 30 years in time. Those were the days !

 

M

 

The other piece was Karg Elert's Legend.

 

Another organist who seems to have disappeared....... Timothy Farrell?

 

R

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