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Allan Wicks


Guest Roffensis
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Guest Roffensis

I think it's a pity that Allan Wicks, surely one of our very greatest and most accomplished cathedral organists, has been so neglected in the world of reissues of old recordings. He did a stunning recording of Williamson's Symphony for organ at Coventry Cathedral, and a equally stunning Messiaen "Nativite" at St Pauls, neither of which has seen the light of day since the LP era. In addition, he recorded three excellent records at Canterbury Cathedral on the "old" organ, one on Decca, stunningly played, another on Polydor, and also of course the HMV GCOS record, some of which (Ridout) has been reissued on Amphion, but not the Williamson Epitaphs, or indeed the very unique Bach 565, which he gave a most unusual performance of, with a very slow fugue and a fascinating pointing of the score. The organ in all cases sounded absolutely magnificent.

Allan Wicks went on to record two further records on the rebuilt organ at Canterbury, and also a EP. He also made a CD with Guild, and here also his devotion to modern music was evident, with some excellent Ridout. Allan Wicks commisioned a lot of modern music, and championed some which many considered unplayable. He is now of course retired, and stands next to Simon Preston and Francis Jackson for giving us so much that simply that would never has existed. To see him neglected is nothing short of a travesty, and someone should really think of doing a box set of his work. I heard him many times at Canterbury Cathedral, and he was nothing short of a musical genius, so come on!, who is going to recognise this brilliant virtuoso and as he getting on in his years, remind the younger generation what they have missed.

Richard Astridge

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I've got Allan Wicks to thank for getting me started on Messiaen. I had a tape of him playing at Canterbury - can't remember what else was on it - but his blazing performance of 'Transports de joie' from L'Ascension blew me away and had me thinking, "I want some more of that!!!".

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I had the pleasure of page-turning for Allan Wicks during a recording session for Radio Kent about 1983/4. He gave a blistering performance of Dupre's Evocation which made a big impression on me, not just for the music but for the virtuosic presentation. Two takes were all that was necessary. Not sure what your average Radio Kent listener may have made of it but I sure enjoyed it !!

 

Headcase

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Guest Roffensis

The Transports de Joie was on the decca record, reissued on contour, but not on CD. I have never heard it better played! But this is the point I'm making, his technique....simply amazing. And of course he did broadcast a lot on Radio 3, I don't remember the kent broadcast :( .

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One of the first tapes I got as a kid was Allan Wicks playing Transports de Joie. I think it was Red seal or something - no label I had ever come across. The Messiaen is fabulous and I still listen to it just for that piece... I would like a copy if it's re-issued on CD.

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One of the first tapes I got as a kid was Allan Wicks playing Transports de Joie. I think it was Red seal or something - no label I had ever come across. The Messiaen is fabulous and I still listen to it just for that piece... I would like a copy if it's re-issued on CD.

 

One of first organ records was CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL 0RGAN SHOWPIECES

Ace or Diamonds (M3 499)

the Widor Allegro from symphony vi is still the best performance i have ever heard.

 

 

Lets start a campaign to get alan's recordings transfered to cd.

I have the orginal record but do not have a record deck any more.

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I wholeheartedly agree with the theme of this thread, it would be nice to see Allan Wicks recordings reissued on CD.

 

I always enjoyed his playing – Saturday Evensong was always a treat, he would disappear upstairs during the final hymn and then treat us to some fireworks. Dupre's Evocation being one such treat.

 

The first time I heard him play wasn’t in the Cathedral but in Centrepiece Church in Ashford (I think it was 1979). Two items from the programme remain fresh in my memory, the Three Resurrection Dances by Alan Ridout and the Bach D major (the one which opens with the pedal scale). For a modest 2 manual organ it coped admirably with these works.

 

Sitting there that night I never imagined that some 12 years later I would end up as organist at this church.

 

Slightly off topic: this is my first post to this board, although I’ve been following the discussions for some time. I’d just like to say hello to everyone.

 

Rob

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
I wholeheartedly agree with the theme of this thread, it would be nice to see Allan Wicks recordings reissued on CD.

 

The company most likely to be able to do what all you good people want is Amphion Recordings. Martin Monkman is the guy. I don't think any other company has done more in the way of reviving interest and reissuing 'golden' recordings.

 

If there is a demand, you might well find that he'll go for it.

 

What you have to do first, however (no small feat) is find out where the master recordings are! Simply copying well-used LPs or EPs won't give you results that will satisfy listeners of today. When Amphion reissued a lot of the Great Cathedral Organ Series, this was because they had secured not only the original tapes but the permission required to use them.

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Guest Roffensis

The Polydor record master (recorded by Brian Culverhouse) was a tricky one to locate, I approached them yonks ago and they could not find it then, either here, or in Germany. Other Polydor issues in that series have, however, been resissued, including Ely, Worcester and Westminster Abbey choirs, and Michael Austin at Birmingham T.H. The Decca record was actually a Vista recording by Michael Smythe, so either Andrew Parker or Colin Smythe may know of its location? Mcmaster university in USA supposedly has all the vista tapes? At least one major UK comapany has expressed interest in these tapes, but what happened I do not know. The Saga record of the Nativite at St Pauls was originally an old Alpha LP, but probably the master to that will be with the other Sagas. Other recordings were on Wealden (2 plus and EP), but I have no idea where they are now. That label was based in Kent. HMV of course does have the GCOS. Reissuing piecemeal from that series will, by very nature, be highly subjective and very much a personal choice. A lot that has been reissued on Amphion would certainly not have seen the light of day otherwise, and the neglect of the GCOS series is a great pity, as these recordings are full of historical interest and should surely have been reissued in total in a box set, let alone a smaller company taking up ther gauntlet. I am sure we are all very grateful to Martin Monkman for his enlightened attitude to them. Back to Allan Wicks, Odd pieces also appeared on a couple of Abbey choral records from Canterbury, including an old recording of the Ridout Ressurection Dances. The Williamson Symphony at Coventry was on Rediffusion Aurora, and was recorded by Brian Culverhouse.

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Guest paul@trinitymusic.karoo.co.uk
Other recordings were on Wealden (2 plus and EP), but I have no idea where they are now.

 

 

When Wealden shut down for good, they kindly wrote to those artists concerned and offered them back the master tapes. I know this from personal experience and have had it confirmed by another who also recorded for them. This doesn't tell you exactly who now has the Wicks tapes, but it's a start, assuming thyat he said yes! [No money had to change hands; I thought it was a nice gesture.]

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Yep I agree with many of the comments - I regularly heard him as a teenager in Kent - Saturday evensongs were a treat, I can remember one saturday, it seemed as if the whole congregation had stopped to listen - they all seemed to congregate near the high Altar to watch the great man in the distance on the pulpitum screen...

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  • 2 weeks later...

I learned a lot from the great man in the course of little more than a week. In that short time he became a major influence on my musical development.

 

His devotion to modern music has been touched on here, so I thought I might be allowed to relate a little story he told me: he had prepared with a great deal of care Maxwell Davies' Fantasy "O magnum mysterium", which he called "O maximum hysterium". He said he'd practised it for more than a year until he was sure he could play all of the inthinkable notated rhythms. Shortly before the first performance "Max" came to listen to it. His comment: "Well, yes - but MUCH freer!"

 

He taught me to lose my stage-fright. That meant lying down on the floor of Cape Town Cathedral shortly before a competition, while the audience was taking it's place - but it was worth it.

 

Barry

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  • 3 years later...
Guest Echo Gamba
I wholeheartedly agree with the theme of this thread, it would be nice to see Allan Wicks recordings reissued on CD.

 

I always enjoyed his playing – Saturday Evensong was always a treat, he would disappear upstairs during the final hymn and then treat us to some fireworks. Dupre's Evocation being one such treat.

 

The first time I heard him play wasn't in the Cathedral but in Centrepiece Church in Ashford (I think it was 1979). Two items from the programme remain fresh in my memory, the Three Resurrection Dances by Alan Ridout and the Bach D major (the one which opens with the pedal scale). For a modest 2 manual organ it coped admirably with these works.

 

Sitting there that night I never imagined that some 12 years later I would end up as organist at this church.

 

Slightly off topic: this is my first post to this board, although I've been following the discussions for some time. I'd just like to say hello to everyone.

 

Rob

 

I think I was there too at AW's Bank Street recital in 1979!

 

I don'y know whether it was on a programme note at a recital, or on a record sleeve, that he described "Transports de Joie" as a "Terrifying Toccata!" And "Alleluias Sereins" as having ".......serene alleluias all over the place" !

 

I recall AW's generosity and genuine pleasure in accepting my youthful invitation invitation to give a recital on my modest nonconformist chapel instrument. His programme was a revelation as to what could be done, with skill and sensitivity on a modest instrument. I can't recall it exactly, but he included among others Mozart K594 and Liszt BACH. When he came to practice, he was so nice about my playing while he listened to the effect in the chapel, and suggested to me hithrerto unthought of registrations such as Great OD+12th as solo. Happy days!

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I think I was there too at AW's Bank Street recital in 1979!

 

I don'y know whether it was on a programme note at a recital, or on a record sleeve, that he described "Transports de Joie" as a "Terrifying Toccata!" And "Alleluias Sereins" as having ".......serene alleluias all over the place" !

 

I recall AW's generosity and genuine pleasure in accepting my youthful invitation invitation to give a recital on my modest nonconformist chapel instrument. His programme was a revelation as to what could be done, with skill and sensitivity on a modest instrument. I can't recall it exactly, but he included among others Mozart K594 and Liszt BACH. When he came to practice, he was so nice about my playing while he listened to the effect in the chapel, and suggested to me hithrerto unthought of registrations such as Great OD+12th as solo. Happy days!

 

 

This Walker resembles somewhat the Walker I used to play when I was in London. I suspect they are from roughly the same time. There is a similar instrument in Llantarnum Abbey, and another in St Wulstun's, Fleetwood and no doubt plenty more.....

 

http://npor.rcm.ac.uk/cgi-bin/Rsearch.cgi?...ec_index=N16103

 

 

To go back to the original thread, however, the very first organ LP I bought was Alan Wicks at Canterbury in the Great Cathedral Organ series.

 

 

Peter

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I have found this thread about Dr Wicks most interesting and can wholeheartedly agree with all the enthusiastic comments that have been made.

 

I was, in fact, his assistant at Manchester long, long ago and for only a brief period; he will not remember me with much pleasure, I fear. Nevertheless, I recall a couple of stories about him that Churchmouse might, possibly, care to note for the next volume.

 

Mention of the Maxwell Davies O magnum mysterium reminds me that Alan fired it off at a Royal Festival Hall recital in late 1959. He had undoubtedly worked on it assiduously as recounted by Barry Jordan and he played it just before the London recital after a midweek evensong. I, together with a few of the layclerks, gathered in the nave to listen; it wasn’t until someone noticed that Maxwell Davies appeared to have repeated some sections several times that eventually we realised that Alan was actually practising it as he went along.

 

The other story, told over the usual pint after the service, concerned the habit, then indulged widely, of smoking. I recall Alan telling us that he had given up smoking a while before and those of us who then were still in thrall to this filthy habit asked him how he did it. It seems that he had been in conversation with Geraint Jones, one of the most distinguished British organists of the immediate post-war period. Jones, it seems, had already given up smoking; Alan, at that time, was still trying to kick the habit. He asked Geraint Jones what had helped most; Jones replied that giving up had improved his technique enormously. This was, of course, a great incentive and Alan immediately decided to kick the habit which he did, successfully. We asked him if it had made any difference to his technique: Absolutely none whatsoever was the reply.

 

David Harrison

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Guest Echo Gamba
Small world !

 

John Blaskett used to put on a very enterprsing recital series there. I can remember hearing Allan Wicks of course, David Flood, Anne Marsden Thomas, Nicholas King, John Hurd, and others.

 

I played for a morning service there once, at very short notice and no chance of a practice, before your time as organist. About 1982 at a guess.

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Guest Echo Gamba
I have found this thread about Dr Wicks most interesting and can wholeheartedly agree with all the enthusiastic comments that have been made.

 

I was, in fact, his assistant at Manchester long, long ago and for only a brief period; he will not remember me with much pleasure, I fear. Nevertheless, I recall a couple of stories about him that Churchmouse might, possibly, care to note for the next volume.

 

Mention of the Maxwell Davies O magnum mysterium reminds me that Alan fired it off at a Royal Festival Hall recital in late 1959. He had undoubtedly worked on it assiduously as recounted by Barry Jordan and he played it just before the London recital after a midweek evensong. I, together with a few of the layclerks, gathered in the nave to listen; it wasn't until someone noticed that Maxwell Davies appeared to have repeated some sections several times that eventually we realised that Alan was actually practising it as he went along.

 

The other story, told over the usual pint after the service, concerned the habit, then indulged widely, of smoking. I recall Alan telling us that he had given up smoking a while before and those of us who then were still in thrall to this filthy habit asked him how he did it. It seems that he had been in conversation with Geraint Jones, one of the most distinguished British organists of the immediate post-war period. Jones, it seems, had already given up smoking; Alan, at that time, was still trying to kick the habit. He asked Geraint Jones what had helped most; Jones replied that giving up had improved his technique enormously. This was, of course, a great incentive and Alan immediately decided to kick the habit which he did, successfully. We asked him if it had made any difference to his technique: Absolutely none whatsoever was the reply.

 

David Harrison

 

Ah! Manchester! Perhaps you can answer a question for me..!? I can remember my mother taking me into Manchester Cathedral when I was a small boy. I am guessing that it must have been around 1960/1 when we moved from Liverpool to Wilmslow. I am sure I can recall a 4 manual console at floor level; would this have been correct at that time? I have not been able to glean anything clear from the NPOR. I remember a verger telling me I could "look but not touch as the organist would be furious"!

 

This has probably been quoted somewhere before, but I recall Alan sitting in the audience at Canterbury at a recital by Christopher Dearnley, and whispering loudly to someone "Why on earth can't he play a thundering wrong note and show us he's got some guts"!

 

Which reminds me of a time years ago when my elderly mother came with me to an end-of-course concert by an RSCM Summer School

at Canterbury. I had left my seat before it started, to talk to an aquaintance I had spotted, and returned to be told by my mother that "some bloke had tried to take my seat, but she'd sent him packing in no uncertain terms". She indicated the unfortunate recipient of her tongue to me, as he took a seat elsewhere.....Archbishop Coggan! :lol:

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Echo Gamba - you are quite right. At the time of the rebuild in the early fifties the old console was retained, but the new one was added and installed, at floor level, in the chancel. It was the first to have the curved stop jambs and I was told that when Ralph Downes spotted it at the Harrison works he requested it for the RFH organ which was being built at the time. Norman Cocker had designed the new console himself and he refused to allow the RFH to have it, thus Manchester Cathedral was the first to have what became, for some time, the signature Harrison console.

 

It was possible to play both consoles together, but it was as well to do it sober as they were not completely independent. As I recall, with an ever fading memory, the swell pedals and, I think, the Pedal section had to be selected on a switch board near the choir console. I recall trying to play for an evensong one Saturday when Allan was away; I had forgotten that I had played for a wedding at midday on the nave console and although I had switched the organ off and pressed general cancel, some kind, thoughtful and helpful soul had subsequently drawn the 16, 8 and 4ft reeds on the great - I think that there was no way of locking the nave console, hence the verger’s message to you! Circumstances led me to play the choir in for evensong at the choir console without checking the setter switch and on other keyboards than the great and so when I drew some tasteful stops to accompany the psalms I and the entire choir jumped at least six feet into the air. No shrinking violet, that organ, as I recall. The rest of the service was pretty dire, from my point of view, though by the time I have got to the end of the Sumsion in G Mag, I had worked out what was wrong. Now, I believe, the console is on the screen and has been for some time, but I have not darkened the doors of the Cathedral since I left.

 

Just for the record, I am sure Dr Wicks spells his given name with two lls; I got it wrong in my previous post. And Vox Humana will, I'm sure, confirm that Sidney Campbell most certainly did not like his name being spelt incorrectly!

 

David Harrison

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Guest Echo Gamba
One of first organ records was CANTERBURY CATHEDRAL 0RGAN SHOWPIECES

Ace or Diamonds (M3 499)

the Widor Allegro from symphony vi is still the best performance i have ever heard.

 

 

Lets start a campaign to get alan's recordings transfered to cd.

I have the orginal record but do not have a record deck any more.

 

Was this the disc that had Mendelssohn IV and the "Dorian" Toccata & Fugue ?

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Was this the disc that had Mendelssohn IV and the "Dorian" Toccata & Fugue ?

 

 

No , the tracks were:--

 

(side one)

1. Widor: Allegro (6th Symphony)

2. Alain: Litanies

3. Messiaen: Alleluias Sereins (L'Ascension)

4. Messiaen: Transports De Joie (L'Ascension)

 

(side two)

 

1. J.S Bach: Toccata and Fuge in D Minor, Bwv 565

2. Reger: Benedictus, Op 59 No 9

3. Liszt: Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H

 

This was Vista production for Decca (Ace of Diamonds)

 

Recorded 1976

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John Blaskett used to put on a very enterprsing recital series there. I can remember hearing Allan Wicks of course, David Flood, Anne Marsden Thomas, Nicholas King, John Hurd, and others.

 

I played for a morning service there once, at very short notice and no chance of a practice, before your time as organist. About 1982 at a guess.

 

I remember John Blaskett giving a recital at Canterbury shortly after the rebuild. The Guilmant No 1 was earth shatteringly loud - marvelous fun. John gave a few recitals for me at Bank Street, sadly he never got to play the organ in its completed state.

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Guest Echo Gamba
I remember John Blaskett giving a recital at Canterbury shortly after the rebuild. The Guilmant No 1 was earth shatteringly loud - marvelous fun. John gave a few recitals for me at Bank Street, sadly he never got to play the organ in its completed state.

 

I didn't realize it wasn't complete........

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Guest Roffensis
Was this the disc that had Mendelssohn IV and the "Dorian" Toccata & Fugue ?

 

 

That was on LP Polydor 2460 252 which was done in 1975.

 

Bach-"Dorian" Toccata and Fugue, BWV 538

Mendelssohn Sonata 4

 

Widor-March Pontificale

Franck-Pastorale

Bossi Scherzo in g

 

The last track has just been reissued on a CD incidently.

 

Well, it's a start! :lol:

 

R

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