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Magic Moments


Peter Clark
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Do you have one special memory of a perfrmance you have given - one that stands out above others, for whatever reason? It could be belting out Widor in a French cathedral, or playing Howells at Gloucester.... it could be accompanying, or singing in an oratario, or playing in an ensemble.....

 

I'll get the ball rolling. The one that did it for me was accompanying Mozart's gorgeous Laudate Dominum in St David's Hall in Cardiff during a Mass celebrated by the Archbishop of Cardiff. Although I give the ocassional recital, I have always thought of myself as a liturgical organist, and this was a wonderful enhancement of the liturgy for me.

 

Over to you.....

 

 

Peter

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For me it was hearing S-S Wesley's choral music, and Howells, Dupré,

Karg-Elert organ music, live in a british cathedral.

Even the senior ladies kept silent!

The thing gave me the idea one could try a synthesis with british and german post-romantic

styles, i.e. Big open Diapasons, smaller Diapasons, high-pressure chorus

reeds with solo free reeds and german soft flue stops; the Mixtures weren't

an example there, but others demonstrated one could go from the Harmonia aetherea

up to the Harmonics -absolutely any need can be met with-.

 

Pierre

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Guest drd

My own performance: BWV572 after an Evensong, cong. stayed to the very end, in silence, and applauded as I finished and descended from the loft.

 

A real performance: Peter Hurford giving a recital at York, in, possibly 2001/2 - even though he was invisible, one could tell/feel when he had relaxed the performance tension after each piece. (After the echo had died away.) Others could feel it too - applause started unanimously only after that sense of release had occurred.

 

Liturgical: frequent attendance in the early 70s at weekday evensong in Winchester - November evensongs, with the light fading from the nave, and the pool of light surrounding the choir and us in the quire were quite magical. Sumsion, Howells, Stanford et al..

 

Other choral: Wordsworth Singers performing Bach Singet dem Herren, and Josquin Missa Pange Lingua last Saturday.

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21.45 hrs sat in the darkness of an empty Durham Cathedral (apart from the console light) testing a new recorder, James Lancelot played Master Tallis Testement, (and some other pieces ) the viceral and shimering effect of the 32ft double open wood at the end ,,, marvelous, brings a tear to the eye :)

Regards

Peter

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21.45 hrs sat in the darkness of an empty Durham Cathedral (apart from the console light) testing a new recorder, James Lancelot played Master Tallis Testement, (and some other pieces ) the viceral and shimering effect of the 32ft double open wood at the end ,,, marvelous, brings a tear to the eye :)

Regards

Peter

 

Aaaaargh......Should we understand you have it recorded?

 

Pierre

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In order to be sure, if I stick to my own language:

"Amaï seg efkes'"

 

Pierre

 

Ech verstinn nët! Have I got anywhere near the correct language?

 

I hope I didn't offend you? I only wanted to know if you liked the idea of a recording at Durham or not.

 

John

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Ech verstinn nët! Have I got anywhere near the correct language?

 

I hope I didn't offend you? I only wanted to know if you liked the idea of a recording at Durham or not.

 

John

 

1)- You didn't offend me at all, or I wouln't be a belgian;

 

2)- How can I get that recording ?

 

3)- "Ech verstinn nët". Anything germanic, from Süd-Tirol to Iceland, be it modern or ancient,

we flemish can understand. Flemish lies just in the middle of germanic idioms. This is usefull

when one can lay a hand on, say, an original 17th century document, written in a northern german

dialect; this is why belgian historians are the best. :rolleyes::blink::unsure:

Pierre

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A few unforgettable musical moments in a fairly undistinguished career…

 

As a performer:

1. Spring 1974. Singing Treble 1 in JSB’s B minor Mass.

 

2. Edinburgh Festival Fringe 1986. Playing trumpet in a soul band the University SU bar, at 3am. My fellow band members and I had spent the past week rehearsing, gigging, busking, drinking, avoiding beatings in pubs where the regulars weren’t keen on students and sleeping in the back of a transit van parked outside a tenement block. A memorable experience for many reasons, not all of them musical.

 

3. Summer 1996. Charity fundraiser, Northwich Methodist Church Hall. The first time that I accompanied my wife in a concert. (Rutter ‘Suite Antique’, Poulenc Flute Sonata).

 

4. Palm Sunday 2001, St John’s Hartford, Northwich. Conducting ‘Komm, ihr tochter’. Although the choir was stiffened by a smattering of Grade VIII/pro musicians, at least 50% of the singers were non-readers. They excelled themselves. I was holding back tears by the end, as were many in the congregation. My elation was only slightly dampened after the service, when I was reprimanded by one of the clergy because ‘That anthem was far too long’.

 

5. Chartres Cathedral, Bastille Day 2003. Playing ‘Litanies’ on the Grand Orgue. The fact that I played a piece by ‘un hero de la Republique’ on this day was not lost on many in the audience - although I have no doubt that their enthusiastic response was to the choice of music rather that to the playing. I then descended (very carefully) to the crossing floor and conducted my school choir in (amongst other things) ‘If ye love me’ and ’The Lamb’. The expressions on some of the singers’ faces as their voices took flight in that acoustic will remain with me for the rest of my life. When, on the bus back to Paris that night, I asked a few of them what their favoutite moment in the concert had been, opinion was divided between singing 'The Lamb' and 'That really scary organ music'.

 

6. Good Friday 2006, Nantwich Parish Church. Accompanying Stainer’s ‘Crucifixion’. Realising once again, that much of what is said and written about this work is so much snobbish posturing. We finished the evening with the last two movements of Haydn’s ‘Seven last Words’. Much greater music without any doubt, but in context, not necessarily any more moving or spiritually uplifting.

As a listener:

1. Spring 1973. Ordination service, Chester Cathedral. Roger Fisher improvising on ‘Ewing’ during the offertory. This was the point when I decided that I had to learn to play the organ.

 

2. Summer 1987. Queen, Knebworth Park. What can I say?

 

3. Summer 1993. Chester Cathedral again. This time listening to Britten’s ‘War Requiem’ under Richard Hickox. Possibly the most stunning part was the full minute’s silence at the end before there was any applause.

 

4. Nov(ish) 1995. LPO (plus a Russian pianist, whose name escapes me, but who bears an unsettling likeness to Meatloaf) at the Philharmonic Hall. The first half of the concert consisted of commanding account of Brahms’ 1st piano concerto (the slow movement is the single most beautiful piece of music to come out of the entire 19C, discuss) followed by a positively demonic interpretation of the Liszt Piano sonata. The second half was taken up by ‘The Rite of Spring’. Magnificent and terrifying in equal measure.

 

5. Oct 2000. Concert in the Quire of Canterbury Cathedral. BBC singers and Olivier Latry. First half, OK. A new work by Rutter (effective, but doesn’t see to have found its way into the repertoire) and Messiaen’s ‘Livre de Saint Sacrament’ (I’m in agreement with those who say that this is by no means his best work).

However, the second half…Improvisations by OL (as phenomenal as you might expect) played in between movements of the Frank Martin Mass for Double Choir. It was the first time that I had heard this wonderful work, which was brilliantly sung. I spent the following day dragging my wife round music shops trying to find a recording.

 

Biggest Disappointment:

Bridgewater Hall, Autumn 2004. Halle Orchestra, Ngano, Marshall in Poulenc's Organ Conerto. Superb playing, but no concert organ should ever have to struggle to be heard over a string orchestra.

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As a listener, not a performer, I hesitated to add to this topic, but since Paul has now mentioned listener I will add two items a) the first time I sat in Freiberg Dom and heard Bach, albeit 565; spine tingling, and :rolleyes: on an organ tour in Belgium, in Antwerp Cathedral, locked in after the tourists had left, the organists in the gallery and I was alone in the nave with all those Rubens paintings and one of the party played one of the big Tournemire pieces. Not the finest organ I've heard, but a magical moment. To add to Paul's listening experiences, anytime Roger Fisher plays the Reubke in Chester, and although I've heard him play it often, it never tires.

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I'm back from Europe.

 

Magic moments eh?

 

I suppose it's difficult to recall the thrill of actually playing a hymn well for the first time, but actually, this sticks in my mind, because the first ever solo ordeal of my entire organ-playing career, was when I accompanied my first ever service. This happened to be an ordination, with the bishop there and hundreds in the congregation.

 

A few weeks later, I went to the Lake District on holiday, and turned up at church somewhere north of Ullswater for the Sunday Morning Service. I think I was 14 at the time, and ready to take Hellvelyn by storm that same afternoon; complete with kagool and hiking-boots.

 

"Do we, by any remote chance, have anyone in the congregation who can play the organ? Our organist is indiposed," the vicar-person announced.

 

Clomp, clomp, clomp down the aisle I went; more resembling a first-aider at the Winter Olympics than an organist.

 

It was a bit tricky hitting the right pedal-notes, but we struggled through and improvised at the end. That was a fun thing at that age; especially when I got lots of nice comments, orange-juice and mutiple little Easter Eggs afterwards.

 

I suppose a first-ever recital was memorable; except that I cannot recall what I played, when it was or even where!

 

I do recall the first time when I played a Handel Organ-Concerto with an orchestra, because I had been forced into a very difficult situation. With the main blower of a divided instrument having burned out, we had to do a spot of pipe-swapping and dismantling to make a small, seven-stop Choir organ sound like a proper organ. By some complete miracle, it worked brilliantly, and with the shutters and back-panel of the choirbox removed, seven ranks (including a cobbled Tierce for authenticity) could match the orchestra with some ease; all sort of supported with bits of firewood and gaffa-tape. (It was either that or cancel much of the concert!)

 

I have a recording of a choral service, when I accompanied Stamford in C at a certain noble-pile. It is still quite breath-taking to listen to, some 30 years on, and if I never accompany anything ever again, I can claim that I was on top form for at least one day in my life.

 

Incredible moments included the two occasions when I just sat in silence with tears streaming down my face, after playing the Bavo-orgel and St Laurens', Alkmaar for the first time. Organs don't come any better than those.

 

Playing a theatre-organ concert at Granada Studios, Manchester was certainly memorable, and a bit of a triumph in certain ways, due to the lack of practice-time available on such instruments. It was Christmas as well, so there were lots of jolly robins, sleigh-bells and laughing Santa medleys to play. (Love those sleigh-bells!)

 

Accompanying the Mozart (Susmeyer?) Requiem was a terrific experience with full-orchestra and choir, and a very deeply moving experience. Also, in the same programme, the Pergolesi "Magnificat".

 

Oddly enough, perhaps the best experience I ever enjoyed, was a very simple programme of baroque music, when I played a few bits and pieces at my home church, but also played organ continuo with two fine violinists, in Corelli church-sonatas.

 

There is something quite fantastic about musicians who just "click in" to a special musical relationship, and every note turns out to be near perfect, with absolute empathy and integrity. It's very rare, when a piece ends, and when the expressions on the faces of the musicians convey love rather than self-satisfaction or pride, and the audience hesitate, before daring to blow away the moment with applause. I guess that's just musical magic.

 

MM

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  • 2 weeks later...

Magic moments? Oh so many, but on the whole it's just little things pleasing a little mind. Some more significant ones were:

 

When I was 18, being the star turn in the prizewinners' concert at the end of a competitive music festival in which I had been awarded the highest marks for a solo performance (last movement of Rheinberger 12) and being greeted by thunderous applause and cheers from a packed hall. Of course it was only because I was young. (This, you must understand, was in the days when I could play a bit.)

 

Being examined for the organ scholarship at Windsor (definitely not a magic moment), accepting Sidney Campbell's invitation to stay for Evensong and being told at the end of the anthem that I was going to play my audition piece for the voluntary. Do or die, you might say. For all I knew it might be the last time I played that organ, so I made the most of it. I got the train back to London wondering whether I'd just been given a massive hint or a consolation prize.

 

In my third year at Windsor, coping single-handedly with the whole of Holy Week because Campbell was ill and we were without an assistant that term. The climax was Easter Day Matins with all the royal family present. I really did rather well, I thought. Sadly, two or three days later I received an admonition: "Her Majesty complained that the organ was too loud in the psalms on Sunday morning." Bugger.

 

Accompanying DHM's choir in a concert in Concord, New Hampshire with a "centre-stage" organ console in front of the singers and feeling through my back an electrifyingly intimate atmosphere with the audience hanging on every note. I have never felt such an intense communication before or since. I don't know whether the choir felt anything unusual - I suspect it was just a personal response to the tension of the moment - but we did get a standing ovation at the end.

 

Accompanying Duruflé's Requiem for a (pretty good) local choir and having to fight the tears at the end because I was feeling so emotionally drained.

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Reading of Vox's moments reminded me of pain and suffering for some strange reason, which brought back to mind a couple of miraculous (rather than magic) moments.

 

The first involves a sharp object, and the second involves a frozen stream.

 

When the professional opera-singer Paul Nilon (Opera North) was but 11 years of age, he won music-festival after music-festival as a boy treble, with a virtuosity worthy of the Vienna Boy's Choir. On the strength of this, I gave him his first ever professional engagement. The programme included various bits of Mozart (the Alleluya) and Handel (Joubel's Lyre etc); some of which required some fairly deft accompaniment on the organ. Two days before the concert, I had been drawing back a carpet at home, and stabbed the end of my index finger with a carpet pin (ouch!). That was bad enough, but by the evening of the concert, the wounded finger had decided to turn septic; reaching almost twice normal width. With no-one else available, I simply had to soldier on.

 

It was a case of mind over matter, because in every single piece, I was dreading finger no.2 going down on the keys. The pain was absolutely excrutiating, but I managed to stagger through to the end. I'm afraid that the recording I made of the concert was rather spoiled by this, because I was making mistakes due to the pain and the size of the finger, but all credit to Paul, he sang perfectly.

 

In my early twenties (my wild period), I was heavily into motor-sport and road-rallying in particular. Keen to offer support to the Wharfedale Music Festival, I went in for the organ competition because they didn't want that category to die a death. I also encouraged (bludgeoned) my then assistant organist to do the same. It seemed like a good idea to play Bach and Reger on a nice Compton organ with a lovely RCO console; so this was the set-piece and my own choice piece back to back......and talking of backs......

 

The week before, I had taken part in a rather fast and furious night rally around the Yorkshire Dales. Bearing in mind that it was SUMMER, one could not have anticipated snow on the higher ground of the far northern dales, but this is exactly what we got under slightly freak weather conditions. I recall the moment vividly, when hammering into a left-hand bend at about 80mph (sorry yer 'onour....cap on breast) I saw, to my horror, a frozen-stream across the road. We went off the road at undiminished speed, took off and belly-flopped very heavily onto the frozen tundra 30ft or so below. My navigator was fine; they always are.

I was in so much pain, I almost needed one of those attractive yellow helicopters and a stretcher to airlift me to the nearest spinal-injuries unit, but being tough Yorkshiremen, we eventually accepted a tow from a conveniently placed Land-Rover and drove the hundred miles or so home very slowly; the car looking quite sorry for itself.

 

On the day of the Music Festival, I staggered into the church wrapped like a Wensleydale Cheese; being held vertical by crepe bandages and safety-pins. What a fine, fragile assembly of blood and bone I must have looked, as like Lazarus in the Bible, I cast aside my sticks and tripped gingerly towards the organ-console.

 

It was one of those moments, when mid-Reger, I knew I should really have stayed home with the cat and confined myself to a wooden-plank. I can only describe the pain in my back and chest as similar to that which must have been endured by St.Sebastian, when they used him as a dart-board. I was in total agony throughout, but with the Lord's help and 8 asprin tablets, I got through and actually collected first-prize.

 

My delight (leavened by near delerium) was short-lived, because my bloody assistant picked up "most outstanding performance" simply because he was 16.

 

Being cynical, I think the judges fancied him, but anyway, I digress.

 

"I'll kill you!" I said on the way out; supporting myself on sticks again.

 

Repenting slightly, I asked, "Would you like a lift home?"

 

He gave me a strange look and replied, "If you don't mind, I think I'll catch the bus."

 

MM

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Greetings from a new member

My most recent magic moment was last October on a long-weekend visit to Paris which included a recital by Daniel Roth at St Sulpice, the 11.00 o'clock at the Madeline, the afternoon audition at Notre Dame, followed by a quick dash to St Eustache for their audition. We arrived at St Eustache just as the first piece was finishing - a modern suite unknown to myself, but featuring some pretty big trompettes. The main fare was Grande Piece Symphonique, it was an absolutely rivetting performance by a young un-heard-of Parisian organist, as we arrived the daylight was just starting to go, by the end of the performance the church was in total darkness apart from a single light in the sanctuary - the atmosphere was amazing!

Clarity, weight of tone (particulary 32ft), multi levels of volume, beautiful solo registers. Fine as the other experiences of the weekend were, this was one of my most memorable organ expriences.

Do go and hear it!

 

DT

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The reference to Paris reminds me of one particular 'magic moment'.

 

My mother died in March 1997, relatively young and after a terrible illness. A few months later, very low but desperately in need of some time by myself, I spent a week in Paris seeing all the sights and visiting many of the Ile de France cathedrals within reach of the city.

 

My last day was a rainy Sunday. I went to both the morning and evening masses at Notre Dame to hear the organ.

 

After the evening mass, Philippe Lefevre was improvising, building to the most awe - inspiring climax. My one disappointment was that the lights in the cathedral were still on and the sun was behind the clouds, both of which meant that the stained glass windows could not be seen properly.

 

Just as the music reached its thunderous climax, and purely by coincidence I am sure, all the lights in the cathedral went out and the sun burst through the windows.

 

The death of my mother was one of the few periods in my life when I totally lost my faith. That magic moment in Notre Dame marked a turning point though, and the beginning of my coming back to my faith and to life.

 

M

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  • 2 weeks later...

On Thursday I attended the Memorial Concert at St Sulpice for Hervé Lussigny, who was the registrant-assistant in the organ loft for 22 years and whose Memoriam is published here.

 

Four organists played: Suzanne Chaisemartin; Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin, Pierre Cogan and Daniel Roth. They each played two pieces, beginning with a solemn movement:

 

Suzanne Chaisemartin:

 

Prélude from Symphony no 1 Vierne

Fantasie in G Bach

 

Sophie-Véronique Cauchefer-Choplin:

 

Prélude Ropartz

Sonata VI Mendelssohn

 

Pierre Cogan:

 

Cortège et Offrande Cogan

Choral no 3 Franck

 

Daniel Roth:

 

Tierce en taille de Grigny

Gloria (Livre d’Orgue pour le Magnificat) Roth

 

At the end the Salve Regina was sung by the audience, with an improvised introduction, accompaniment and gentle conclusion by Daniel Roth.

 

The organ sounded magnificent. Few can have had such a moving tribute.

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On Thursday I attended the Memorial Concert at St Sulpice].

 

I heard the organ at St Sulpice for the first time last October. Daniel Roth played a recital entitled 'Homage to Falcinelli', the focus was her Esquisses Symphoniques en forme des Variations interspersed with Dupre P & F in F minor, Franck Fantasie in A, and movements from Roth's own Livre d'orgue pour le Magnificat, with an improvisation on Watchet Auf for an encore.

The Facinelli and Roth pieces were a bit esoteric for my taste, but the sound of that organ!!! Wow

Not what I expected, very rich, beautifully integrated, lovely solo voices, registers on the Recit particularly clear.

Suzanne Chaisemartin was giving out progammes at the door!

Afterwards we waited to shake hands with the 'maitre' then ascend with a few dozen others to the tribune to see the console.

A wonderful occasion.

 

DT

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