O Sing unto the Lord

O Sing unto the Lord
Sacred music by Henry Purcell
Saint Thomas Choir, New York, Concert Royal, John Scott
Resonus RES10184. 54’03

O sing unto the Lord, Z44; Remember not, Lord, Z50; Jehova, quam multi sunt hostes mei, Z135; Evening Hymn, Z193; O God, thou art my God, Z35; Morning Hymn, Z198; I was glad, Z19; Hear my prayer, O Lord, Z15; Voluntary in G major, Z720; Te Deum in D major, Z232.

Following on from their recent issues of Bach and Rachmaninoff, Resonus continue their series of recordings from the Saint Thomas Choir, New York, under their conductor, the late John Scott, with this release of a 2010 recording of Purcell. The well-balanced programme includes major works for choir and orchestra, such as the substantial opening O sing unto the Lord, as well as more intimate pieces such as the Morning and Evening Hymns, here separated by the early anthem O God, thou art my God with its famous Hallelujah, later turned into the hymn Westminster Abbey. This amply demonstrated the extraordinary range of Purcell’s musical style and his harmonic inventiveness. Continue reading

A Giant Reborn: the restored 1735 Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields

A Giant Reborn
The restored 1735 Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields, London
Gerard Brooks
Fugue State Records FSRCD010. 2CDs. 77’02+66’35

Music by Prelleur, Handel, Greene, Stanley, Bull, Barrett, Purcell, Croft, Heron, Boyce, Walond, Arne, Nares, Reading, James, Keeble

Spitalfields CD.jpgThe completion of the restoration of the famous 1735 Richard Bridge organ in Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields was one of the most important musical events in London during 2015. My review of John Scott’s opening recital, and details of the organ, can be seen here. Tragically it was one of the last recitals that John Scott gave before his death . Equally tragically, the master organ builder William Drake, the finest restorer of historic organs in the UK, died the year before the organ’s completion, so never heard what must now stand as his memorial.

Christ Church, Spitalfields was built between 1714 and 1729 as part of the ’Fifty New Churches’ Act of Parliament of 1711. It is one of the six East London churches WP_20150605_18_45_24_Prodesigned by the famed Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. The organ was built in 1735 by Richard Bridge, who became one of the leading organ builders of the day. Spitalfields seems to have been only his second commission, perhaps explaining the comparatively low price of £600 for such a substantial instrument. For the following 100 years or so, it was the largest organ in the country. It suffered the inevitable changes over the years, but retained enough of its original pipework to form the basis for a historically based reconstruction, returning it broadly to its original specification and construction. It was dismantled in 1998 while the church was being restored and was then restored to its 1735 specification, with very few concessions. Its completion in 2015 makes this by far the most important pre-1800 organ in the UK.

This is the first recording of the restored organ. As well as being a comprehensive account of the instrument’s forces, it is also a fascinating reflection of the organ music in 18th century England, covering most of the principal composers, many of which are little known outside of their organ compositions. Rather like Continue reading

John Scott Commemoration

John Scott Commemoration
St Paul’s Cathedral. 6 May 2016

The untimely death in August 2015 of the eminent organist and choral director John Scott was a shock to many. Organist and Director of Music of St Paul’s Cathedral from 1990 to 2004, and then at St Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, New York, John’s reputation as solo organist and choir director seemed to be on a perpetual rise. His memory remains strong in St Paul’s Cathedral, as was evident from the packed Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving to mark his life, held in place of the usual Evensong on Friday 6 May.

Unusually for English cathedral services, the commemoration was prefaced by 35 minutes of organ music, played by two of John’s former Sub-Organists Continue reading

Dancing Day: John Scott

Dancing Day: Music for Christmas
Saint Thomas Choir New York, John Scott
Resonus RES10158. 63’58

Benjamin Britten: A Ceremony of Carols, A New Year Carol;
John Rutter: Dancing Day; Matthew Martin: Novo profusi gaudio;
Patrick Hadley: I sing of a maiden;
William Mathias: Wassail Carol;
Trad: King Jesus Hath A Garden, Sussex Carol.

This CD has a touching poignancy in that it was the last recording made by the distinguished conductor and organist John Scott, who died at a tragically young age in August 2015. It was recorded in April and went to press a few days before John’s death, so has no reference to his death in the notes. An enormously influential musician and man, John Scott was organist and director of music at London’s St Paul’s Cathedral for 14 years before moving to New York to direct the choir and music of Saint Thomas, Fifth Avenue, one of the finest Anglican men and boys choirs outside of the UK.

It is perhaps appropriate that this recording is of Christmas music from John’s home country, centred on Benjamin Britten’s Continue reading

John Scott: Gala opening recital

John Scott: Gala opening recital
on William Drake’s reconstruction of the 1735 Richard Bridge Organ
in Christ Church, Spitalfields. 30 June 2015

ABW SpitalfieldsIn one of the highlights in the English organ world for many a year, William Drake’s reconstruction of the extraordinary 1735 Richard Bridge organ in Christ Church, Spitalfields was opened last night with a Gala Concert given by John Scott. John is one of the Patrons of the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields, who for nearly 40 years have been fundraising for the restoration of this spectacular church as well as the Bridge organ.

Christ Church, Spitalfields was built between 1714 and 1729 as part of the ’Fifty New Churches’ Act of Parliament of 1711. It is one of the six London East London churches designed by the distinctive Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. The organ was built by Richard Bridge, one of the leading Continue reading