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Mander Organs

Signature Tunes


David Drinkell

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It's nice sometimes to do a concert with a theme. While trundling along the Trans Canada Highway to kick hell out of a decrepit Hammond at a funeral, I was listening to one of the Great Cathedral Organ CDs. It was mainly to hear Francis Jackson's definitive performance of Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece which had always scared the living daylights out of me but which I felt I ought to learn when I came here. This recording is helping me to play it better.

 

Anyway, after the Willan, the organ changes to Westminster Abbey and the music includes Thalben-Ball's Festing Variations. As folk will know, GTB nearly always included these in recitals. Carlo Curley often trotted out Bach's Sinfonia Wir danken dir, Gott BWV 29. There are a number of pieces which often turned up in Noel Rawsthorne's programmes (and sometimes in Ian Tracey's too), like Karg-Elert's Nun danket, Mozart's Fantasia in F minor and Whitlock's Fanfare. If I'm playing somewhere new, I tend to open with Susato's La Mourisque.

 

What other signature tunes, or party pieces, are associated with particular players?

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It's nice sometimes to do a concert with a theme. While trundling along the Trans Canada Highway to kick hell out of a decrepit Hammond at a funeral, I was listening to one of the Great Cathedral Organ CDs. It was mainly to hear Francis Jackson's definitive performance of Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, a piece which had always scared the living daylights out of me but which I felt I ought to learn when I came here. This recording is helping me to play it better.

 

Anyway, after the Willan, the organ changes to Westminster Abbey and the music includes Thalben-Ball's Festing Variations. As folk will know, GTB nearly always included these in recitals. Carlo Curley often trotted out Bach's Sinfonia Wir danken dir, Gott BWV 29. There are a number of pieces which often turned up in Noel Rawsthorne's programmes (and sometimes in Ian Tracey's too), like Karg-Elert's Nun danket, Mozart's Fantasia in F minor and Whitlock's Fanfare. If I'm playing somewhere new, I tend to open with Susato's La Mourisque.

 

What other signature tunes, or party pieces, are associated with particular players?

 

 

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I've probably been to more recitals by Francis Jackson than anyone else, and he was particularly partial to Guilmant's excellent "Grade Choeur," which he played with real swagger and style, wonderful detachment and a pizicatto bass in the middle "waltz" section, which always raised a smile of approval. My God, he could play!

 

Melville Cook would almost always play Reger, and Philip Tordoff at Halifax is very partial to Rheinberger, but beyond that, I can't think of many instances of "signature tunes."

 

Of course, Carlo made that Sinfonia his own, and it never once became tedious or predictable. I recall a senior clergyman at Blackburn Cathedral saying, "I will enjoy the whole concert, but I've really come to hear him play that opening Sinfonia to Cantata no.29 by Bach."

 

The way Carlo would play to the gallery and the space was just amazing, and of course, with a huge concert organ like Hull City Hall, with all those big reeds and lots of glitter, he could start a concert off by not so gently lifitng the roof.

 

"Ladies and gentleman, did you know that J S Bach invented rock & roll?"

 

Best,

 

MM

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  • 1 month later...

Dear David,

 

Are you the same person that I met many years ago in Kirkwall ?

If so you may also know my father, an organist and piano tuner who did a lot of work for the St Magnus festival.

 

Anyways I remember well dear old Francis cracking a joke at a recital in Elgin, "Willan was English by birth, Irish by adoption, and Scotch by absorption."

 

But what a wonderful composition it is, and the York organ is quite ideal

 

Best wishes

 

 

Sandy Edmonstone

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Dear David,

 

Are you the same person that I met many years ago in Kirkwall ?

If so you may also know my father, an organist and piano tuner who did a lot of work for the St Magnus festival.

 

Anyways I remember well dear old Francis cracking a joke at a recital in Elgin, "Willan was English by birth, Irish by adoption, and Scotch by absorption."

 

But what a wonderful composition it is, and the York organ is quite ideal

 

Best wishes

 

 

Sandy Edmonstone

 

Yes, that was me! I remember a number of post-concert evenings at St. Magnus Festival time, putting back a fair amount of whisky with your father. Just before I moved to Belfast, I suggested to the local Episcopal church that they asked you to restore their Holdich organ, and I think they did.

 

I believe the complete Willan quote was, 'English by birth, Irish by descent, Canadian by adoption and Scotch by absorption'.

 

Thanks for the Bossi suggestion. My friend from student days, Ian Sadler, used to play it (he moved to Canada about twenty years before I did), but I never thought about learning it until I acquired Rollin Smith's useful collection of Toccatas, Carillons and Scherzos, published by Dover. It would sound very well on the York organ with its characterful flutes. Was that the piece for which Francis had the Great Harmonic Flute transposed up an octave for a recording?

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