The 2007 Incorporated Association of Organists’
Congress was centred at the NHS Beardmore Hotel and Conference Centre, Clyde
The intensive programme included 13 organ recitals, a master class, a lecture and, finally, a visit to a local distillery. It is Elgar’s 150th anniversary this year and his music featured prominently during the Congress.
July. Monday was occupied in completing the drive from a night stop-over in
The organ, described as a concert organ of romantic
character and one of the foremost instruments of its type in the country, is
mounted on the first floor of the refurbished
swept into the organ loft in a gorgeous blue evening gown, smiled down benignly
on the audience below and launched into a sparkling performance of Bach’s Toccata
in F major, BWV 540. Although the detail was somewhat blurred by the acoustics
of the building the grandeur of the piece was not diminished. This was followed
by a Voluntary in D Minor by John Stanley, A Maggot, an
intriguing piece by Thomas Arne and Henry Purcell’s Voluntary in D Minor. The recital also included a memorable performance
of Cesar Franck’s Choral in A minor. As expected this was an auspicious
start to Congress which augured well for the future programme.
The recital was followed by a reception with the opportunity to enjoy a glass of wine and renew old acquaintances.
July. This was a busy day. We first visited Paisley Abbey, some
10 miles from
specification was well demonstrated by Dr George McPhee in a short
recital including Magnificat, ( Plein
Jeu, Duo, Bass Trompette, Flutes and Dialogue sur Les Grand Jeux) by
Dandrieu, a Messien-like Gaudeamus in Loci Pace by Macmillan and Fugue
sur le Theme du Carillon des Heures, Soissons Cathedral by Duruffle, surely
initially an improvisation. No doubt the experts could still identify the
Cavaille-Coll tonal qualities of the organ despite the number of changes over
entertained in the local church hall with a welcome cup of coffee and then
boarded the coaches again for a short trip to the
The organist, Bill
Ritchi commenced his recital with a performance of Bach’s Prelude and
Fugue in C minor, BWV 546. There followed pieces by Galloway, Hollins,
Howells, Francis Jackson, then Cocker’s Tuba Tune and a fine performance
of Reubke’s Finale from Sonata on the 94th Psalm. Unusually
the recitalist invited us to wander around the church during the recital to
hear the variation in sound from the organ in different parts of the church.
Many listeners do this, quietly and unobtrusively, in any event but an
invitation to do so is unusual.
<>We were soon back on the coaches for a pleasant journey through the countryside to Largs on the Firth of Clyde. A quick lunch and then to St Columba’s Church to hear Dr John Kitchen, Glasgow City Organist and a fine recitalist play the relatively modest Henry Willis Organ.>
In a relative
dry acoustic we had our first introduction to Buxtehude, a florid Praeludium
in D and three short chorals. We then heard a second Prelude and
Fugue in C Minor, BVW 546, an interesting comparison with the same
piece heard earlier in the
We returned to the hotel via the scenic coastal route and after dinner were entertained by Dr Relf Clark with a lecture on Elgar and the Organ. A delightful speaker with encyclopaedic knowledge of this subject he held his audience despite a tiring day of three organ recitals and a good dinner. The lecture was illustrated by musical excerpts and 35mm slides. It was rumoured that the latter were not immediately recognised by the hotel staff in these days of computer generated ‘PowerPoint’ presentations.
July. The first venue of the day was St Margaret’s Knightswood Parish
Church to hear Dr Kitchen again. This recital was billed as a
demonstration of the Henry Willis organ.
With 10 stops on the great, 4 on the swell and a single pedal stop the
specification was in complete contrast to the well-endowed instruments heard
previously. The acoustic was dry and the short recital, which included Four
Organ Chorales from the Orgelbuchlein by Bach and Voluntary in C minor/major
by William Russell certainly illustrated the delightful range of stops
available on the instrument.
The next stop
was Glasgow Cathedral for a recital by John Turner. The organ was
originally built by Henry Willis in 1879. It has been rebuilt and enlarged
several times since that time. However, the organ was completely reconstructed
and redesigned in 1996 by Harrison and Harrison with the intention of returning
the instrument to its original Father Willis characteristics.
recital included Contrapunctus 9 (Die Kunst der Fugue) by Bach, an
impressive Introduction and Fugue by Rheinberger and, finally, an
excellent performance of Elgar’s 2nd Sonata. This was a
splendid recital with a typical full and resonant cathedral organ sound.
We took a break
from organ music with a short walk around
The Chapel organ
was built by Willis in 1928 and rebuilt by Harrison and Harrison in 2005. In
keeping with the fashion at the time the console and organist were almost
hidden from view in a gallery on the first floor opposite the organ. However,
the manuals and organist could be clearly seen on a large screen in the body of
the chapel by means of an effective video link.
Kevin Boyer’s recital included a Toccata di Concerto written in virtuoso style by Edwin Lemare, a remarkably versatile organist and composer. Next was something of a novelty, A Church Service Interrupted by a Thunderstorm by David Clegg. This was typical of the descriptive pieces once played at town hall recitals and the format of the piece depicted just what was in the title. Basso Ostinato was a jazzy piece by Koomans, with a repeated bass line ending in a blaze of trumpets and brass. Eireann Notes by Paul Fisher was pleasant series of Irish Folk melodies arranged for organ. The final item in the recital was a splendid performance of Elgar’s first major organ work, Sonata in G, Opus 280,
The organ was
built in 1933 by Rushworth and Dreaper and rebuilt by the same company in 1998.
Surprisingly, although the organ speaks through a large grill into the
church, it does not sound confined and Dr Jeremy Cull amply demonstrated
the capabilities of the instrument with a programme which included a Concert
Overture, The Land of the Mountain and the Flood by Hamish MacCun,
Notturno. (From a Midsummer Night’s Dream) by Mendelssohn, an
ingenious piece called The Squirrel by Powell Weaver and a massive
performance of Hollin’s Theme with Variations and Fugue.
This is the
first Frobenius organ to be installed in a church in
Duncan Ferguson played Little Suite by Malcolm Archer. This was an IAO commissioned work and was remarkably tuneful utilising the resources of the organ to the full. The second part of the recital was given by Francesca Massey. Born in 1982 she has made a considerable name for herself as an international recitalist and in many other music fields. Her recital included Toccata in F by Buxtehude, Trio Sonata No 2 in C minor by Bach, Mendelssohn’s Sonata in F minor and a strange but rhythmic piece by Guy Bovet, Salmanca.
specification of the organ shows rather more borrowing than usual, perhaps a
reflection on the fact that it was built originally by Hope-Jones.
short walk to the Usher Hall in the pouring rain we were pleased to be
seated in the huge auditorium in comfortable cinema style seats to listen to Dr
Kitchen again. After the day’s series of recitals many were more than
pleased to have some light relief with Elgar’s Imperial March, a brisk
cinema style Evening Rest by Alfred Hollins, Jazz Variations by
Matthias Nagel and an organ transcription of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Entrance
and March of the Peers from Iolanthe. However, the recital also included a
memorable performance of ‘Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ by Liszt. Dr
Kitchen has built up an enthusiastic public following with weekly recitals
on this and other instruments, and indeed his masterly performance was welcomed
with enthusiasm by the delegates.
The monumental instrument which dominates the Usher Hall was originally built by Norman and Beard in 1914 and restored by Harrison & Harrison in 2003. It appears that the Hall is to be closed for several months for a second stage of renovation. It is to be hoped that during this period the organ will be adequately cocooned to prevent damage from dust.
July. We took the coaches to hear Francesca Massey and Simon
Hogan play the 1990 Flenthrop organ in Dunblane Cathedral. It would
be interesting to know the reasoning behind the provision of this organ which
appeared to have no mechanical aids to performance whatsoever.
<>Indeed the first piece by Francesca Massey, Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in E Minor, The Wedge by Bach was played with minimal stop changes. Her second piece, Prelude, Scherzo and Passacaglia, by Leighton was apparently a conflict between E major and E minor. After some time it concluded with a welcome concord as E Major triumphed.
Simon Hogan then entertained us with Fiat Lux by Dubois, two compositions by Bach, a Chorale prelude ‘Nun komm’, der Heiden Heiland. and Trio - Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend. He concluded with a Suite de Dances; March, Saraband and Gigue by Cochereau, a typical example of that master of improvisation.>
We partook of a packed lunch and coffee in the church hall and then visited the Auchentoshan Distillery, noting the clinical cleanliness of the whole complex and, for those who sampled the whisky, its delightful taste.
We returned to the hotel and later we had an excellent Annual Dinner at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, with guest speaker the distinguished Lord Gill, who, apart form his many other responsibilities is an enthusiastic organist.
Conclusion. So ended yet another successful IAO Congress. The variety of music, organs,
historical venues and brilliant organists experienced in a single week is a
tribute to the imagination, hard work and devotion of the IAO Congress
Organising Committee and the unstinting assistance of local organists’
associations. Their task was made no easier by the indisposition of our
President, Catherine Ennis. Her ebullient presence which was so much in
Coming so soon after the American Theatre Organ
David Ball August 2007
Bexley and District Organists’ and Choirmasters’ Association.