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Denis O'Connor

British improvisers of the past

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In the 50's or 60's,the BBC broadcast a series of 6 recitals each of which featured an inprovisation.I can only remember 2 names-Reginald Moore and Charles Spinks. Does any member of the Forum recall the programme and who improvised what? I think Charles Spinks improvised a Passacaglia.

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I don't know what the programme was, but the BBC did broadcast live performances which included improvisations. Among these, was included the name of James I Taylor of Compton Organs, who later became assistant at St Bride's, Fleet Street. His powers of improvisation were legendary.

MM

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Further information:-

 

THE ORGAN

In the Concert Hall, Broadcasting House
Improvisations by J. 1. TAYLOR
With Commentary by FILSON YOUNG
Listeners will have read the article by Filson Young in last week's issue of THE RADIO Times, introducing this broadcast and calling attention to its unusual interest. Mr. Taylor will come to the B.B.C. organ, not merely as an organ recitalist, but as one who has been associated with its design and construction from the beginning. He is an experienced organ builder as well as an organist of great ability, and he has, in addition, the rare gift of true and creative improvisation. This evening's improvisation will therefore be favourably cast in a form suitable to demonstrate the capacities of the B.B.C. organ, while Mr. Filson Young will be at hand to comment from time to time on the stops and combinations used.

 

 

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11 hours ago, MusoMusing said:

Further information:-

 

THE ORGAN

In the Concert Hall, Broadcasting House
Improvisations by J. 1. TAYLOR
With Commentary by FILSON YOUNG
Listeners will have read the article by Filson Young in last week's issue of THE RADIO Times, introducing this broadcast and calling attention to its unusual interest. Mr. Taylor will come to the B.B.C. organ, not merely as an organ recitalist, but as one who has been associated with its design and construction from the beginning. He is an experienced organ builder as well as an organist of great ability, and he has, in addition, the rare gift of true and creative improvisation. This evening's improvisation will therefore be favourably cast in a form suitable to demonstrate the capacities of the B.B.C. organ, while Mr. Filson Young will be at hand to comment from time to time on the stops and combinations used.

 

 

 

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I believe few knew of Jimmy Taylor's accomplished ability as an organist and an improvisor. In the final stages of the completion of the Compton rebuild of the Hull City Hall organ, as a young boy I can still remember him playing the instrument to both improvise and play excerpts from classical pieces. He could be quite brilliant.

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Nowadays, when musicians die or otherwise disappear, there are usually a few cassete tapes, CD's and such left around, but I well recall my first "state of the art" recording equipment which was a gift on my 15th birthday. It consisted of a mono Ferrograph tape-recorder and a rather nice Reslo ribbon microphone......total weight to drag around, about half a hundredweight. (That's about 24 kilos for EU enthusiasts).

Nowadays, one can get almost broadcast quality from a small, portable, digital recording device for around £100.

Somewhere, if it is still playable, I have a 25 minute, mono-thematic improvisation on cassete, which I just felt inspired to play. The ideas  kept flowing, and hey-ho.....a fairly mighty work.

(I just typed "Tate of the art" above......I like that!)

I've crawled around various archives of the BBC, but apart from the James I Taylor  insertion, I've not come across any Radio Times entries for organ-improvisation from the 1950's and 1960's.  It's fairly time-consuming going through the Radio Times entries, and it may well be that I haven't yet covered all the various stations.....I'll go back to it when the cats have gone out and refuse to come in because it is summer.

What did strike me, was the sheer number of organ-related programmes during the 1930's and 1940's, accompanied by some quite  technical descriptions of organs, organ mechanisms and the music played. There was something for everyone, from Sandy Machperson and his postbag, (playing the BBC theatre organ), to George Thalben-Ball playing the Compton at the Radio Theatre concert-hall and right through to some intellectual stuff from France and Germany. It was quite a golden age for organists!

Another pun just sprang to mind. Is the National Gallery the "Art of the state"?

I must go and do something useful!

MM

 

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21 hours ago, Peter Allison said:

was Thalben Ball a great improviser?  According to his book he was

Only ever heard Thalben-Ball via broadcasts and 78's, but I know that one of his pupils, the late Peter Goodman, was a wonderful improvisor. Wonder who perhaps taught him?

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I recall that in the 1950s/ 1960s the BBC Daily Service was usually sung unaccompanied by the BBC Singers (doubtless directed by GT-B) but on one day each week he played the organ and at the end of the service there was invariably a short improvisation on the closing hymn.  My uncle, without any organ affiliations, used to look forward to these and thought they were wonderful.  

We know that GT-B improvised ‘Elegy’ under not dissimilar circumstances, although I believe that was at the Temple Church.  Others may know whether he also improvised elsewhere.

I only heard him play ‘live’ once, in a recital at Westminster Abbey.  

P.S.   My memory is playing tricks.  I also heard him in the 5.55 series at the RFH; it may have been the Reubke Sonata.  Those recitals were outstanding, and, among others, I also remember Francis Jackson (twice), Noel Rawsthorne, Ralph Downes (of course) and Helmut Walcha (also twice).

Edited by Rowland Wateridge
GT-B playing at the RFH

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I recall hearing the Spinks improvisation. It was broadcast from St Gabriel’s Cricklewood, a 1958 JWW rebuild of, I think, an earlier JWW. The organ was a new wine in old bottles, post Festival Hall essay, its high-minded ideals being compromised by extension, duplexing and the original pipework. 

My recollection is that the church had a deplorable acoustic, but as it was a favourite venue for musical events, that must be wrong.

No doubt Spinks’s improvisation was academically correct, but I remember it mainly through disappointment. It seemed to plod its way from the beginning to the end without any emotional element. However, I had just returned from Paris and had a fairly fixed if juvenile idea of what an improvisation should be like. I have retained very little from my youth, but I still retain the fairly fixed if juvenile idea of what an improvisation should be like.

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