New William Drake organ at Chelsea Old Church

Celebrity Opening Concert – William Drake organ
Nathan Laube

Chelsea Old Church, 19 January 2020

Opening recitals on new organs raise several issues. The performance must, of course, be excellent in itself, regardless of the occasion. But the organ also needs to be demonstrated in a manner that future organ recitals do not need to. I have given several recitals (including, for example, at St John’s, Smith Square) where I have used little more than half of the available stops, to produce a sound that the composer might just recognise. But for an opening recital, a thorough exploration of the sounds of the new instrument is expected. If the organ is built in a specific historic style, the expectation may be that the music of that period dominates. But many organs are built in an eclectic style, capable, in theory, of coping with music from several different historical periods. Continue reading

CANCELLED. Happy Birthday, J S Bach!

Early Music Day
Saturday 21 March 2020

In light of the latest announcement by the UK Government, I am sadly having to cancel all of these concerts. Thank you to all have shown an interest, and particularly to the musicians who were lined up to perform. It is far to soon to think of when, or if, to re-schedule any of it, but Early Music Day next year is on Sunday 21 March.

All the concerts were to have been given in aid of the
Royal Society of Musicians
.

If you are willing to support this important musical charity, you can donate directly via this link https://www.rsmgb.org/fundraising/.  UK taxpayers can claim GiftAid. Please mention “Early Music Day” in the comments section of your donation.

Happy Birthday, J S Bach!

St Giles-in-the-Fields
St Giles High Street, London WC2H 8LG
(Close to Tottenham Court Road underground)

St Giles organ

Three informal 45′ afternoon Bach organ and solo instrument recitals
including organ chorales from Bach’s Leipzig manuscript.

4pm
Fantasia supra Komm, Heiliger Heist  BWV 651
Cello Suite No. 2 in D minor   BWV 1008
Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuetts, Gigue
O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig   BWV 656

5pm
Von Gott will ich nicht lassen   BWV 658
Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland   BWV 659
Partita for solo flute   BWV 1013
Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande, Bourrée angloise
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland   BWV 665

6pm
Allein Gott in Der Hõh sei Ehr    BWV 662
Cello Suite No. 3 in C   BWV 1009
Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Bourrées, Gigue
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland   BWV 666
Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist   BWV 667

Special evening concert @ 7.30

AN EVENING WITH BACH

Featuring the historic St Giles-in-the-Fields organ,
with pipework dating back to Bach’s time, and solo Bach music for cello and violin.
(Free entry – donations welcomed for the Royal Society of Musicians).

The originally planned Art of Moog event had been cancelled earlier
because of the potentially high costs of a late cancellation. The Evening with Bach was a free replacement event. As it turns out, the whole church is now closed for the foreseeable future along, it seems with all CofE churches.

The organ in St Giles-in-the-Fields was originally built by George Dallam in 1678 with further work in 1699 by Christian Smith, nephew of ‘Father’ Smith. It was moved into a new organ case in the rebuilt St Giles church in 1734 by Gerard Smith the Younger. It was rebuilt in 1856 by Gray and Davison, then at the height of their fame. It was restored in 2006 by William Drake of Buckfastleigh, retaining material from 1678, 1699 and 1856. It is one of the most important historic organs in the UK. More details here.

Andrew Benson-Wilson: Three Westminster Abbey organists

Music-at-Hill – Midtown concerts

Friday 13 September 2019, 1:10pm

St Giles-in-the-Fields
60 St Giles High Street. London, WC2H 8LG

Andrew Benson-Wilson
plays organ music by
Three Westminster Abbey Organists
1668 John Blow; 1679 Henry Purcell;
1695 Blow re-appointed; 1708-1727 William Croft

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During the period from 1668 and 1708, Westminster Abbey appointed three distinguished organists, the first of which, John Blow, was the teacher of his two successors, Henry Purcell and William Croft. In 1679 John Blow stepped down from his Abbey post in favour of his talented student, Purcell, only returning on Purcell’s death in 1695. William Croft replaced John Blow after his death in 1708, having previously been organist at St Anne’s Soho and Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal. He is most famed today for his Funeral Sentences, performed at Handel’s funeral in 1759 and at every British state funeral since then.

William Drake’s reconstruction of the Dallam/Smith/England/Lincoln/Gray & Davison organ in St Giles-in-the-Fields is one of London’s most important historic musical instruments. It contains some of the oldest pipework in London, going back to the time of Blow and Purcell in the mid to late 17th century.

Organ information can be found here.
Free admission, retiring collection.
The church is just behind Centre Point/Tottenham Court Road tube station.

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

Programme notes: Weckmann recital

The Grosvenor Chapel, Mayfair
Tuesday 1 November 2016

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Matthias Weckmann (1616-1674)

 Praeludium A . 5 . Vocum
Canzon in G
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen gmain
Fantasia ex D
Toccata ex d
Komm, heiliger Geist, Herr Gott

 Matthias Weckmann is one of the most influential 17th century organist composers of the North German school. He was born in Thuringia, studied in Dresden with Schütz, a pupil of G. Gabrieli, and in Hamburg with Jacob Praetorius, a Sweelinck pupil. He settled in Hamburg in 1655 as organist of the Jacobikirche where he remained until his death. He is buried beneath the Jacobikirche organ. It was said that Weckmann “moderated the seriousness of Praetorius with the sweetness of Scheidemann, and also introduced many new elegant discoveries“. After Andrew’s Benson-Wilson’s performance of his monumental set of chorale variations on Es ist das Heil kommen her at St George’s, Hanover Square (on 11 October), today’s programmes looks at a selection of Weckmann’s free works, together with two contrasting three-verse works based on chorales.

The Praeludium A . 5 . Vocum is anonymous in the original manuscript, but there are stylistic reasons why it is likely to be by Weckmann, Continue reading

Grosvenor Chapel: Weckmann (b1616)

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Mayfair Organ Concerts
The Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair , London W1K 2PA
1 November 2016, 1:10-1:50

Matthias Weckmann  (1616-1674)

In the last of his three recitals of the organ music of Matthias Weckmann (in his anniversary year), Andrew Benson-Wilson plays the William Drake organ in the Grosvenor Chapel, South Audley Street, Mayfair in a programme of a Praeludium, Toccata, Canzon, Fantasia and two contrasting chorale-based works.

Continue reading

The 1735 Spitalfields Richard Bridge organ

The 1735 Spitalfields Richard Bridge organ
Margaret Phillips
Christ Church, Spitalfields, 29 September 2016

One of the most important musical events in London in 2015 was the long-awaited opening of the 1735 Richard Bridge organ (restored by William Drake) in the Hawksmoor designed Christ Church, Spitalfields. For many decades it was the largest organ in the UK, and its musical importance is immeasurable. My review of the gala opening recital, given by (the now sadly, late) John Scott, and information about the restoration and an organ specification can be found here.

In the first of a short series of recitals, Margaret Phillips played what she admitted at the start was a “perverse” programme, including only one English piece in a concert titled ‘The Eighteenth Century English Organ’. She explained that her emphasis was on the many different colours of the Spitalfields organ. Although there is an enormous repertoire Continue reading

St Giles-in-the-Fields: Samuel Wesley (b1766)

St Giles-in-the-Fields 60 St Giles High Street. London, WC2H 8LG
Friday 29 July 2016: 1pm.
Andrew Benson-Wilson plays organ music by
Samuel Wesley (1766- 1837)

Samuel Wesley was born in Bristol 250 years ago. He was the son of Charles Wesley the hymn-writer and nephew of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. He was a 2014-07-04-1716.jpgchild prodigy, writing his first oratorio, Ruth, aged 6. When he was 8, the composer Dr William Boyce referred to him as the ‘English Mozart’. His family moved to London when he was about 12, living in Marylebone. He led a colourful life, some of his apparent eccentricities possibly being caused by a serious head injury when he was about 21. An organ virtuoso, Samuel Wesley was the leading pioneer of the Bach revival in England. Bach seems to have been a strong influence on his Opus 6 Organ Voluntaries, published between about 1807 and 1820, and the focus of this recital.

The wonderful William Drake reconstruction of the Dallam/Smith/England/Lincon/Gray & Davison organ, contains some of the oldest pipework in London. It is very well-suited to Wesley’s music as, in its current form, it represents the English organ in the early years of the 19th century, with strong reminders of the earlier 17th and 18th English organ style.

Organ information: http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/NPORView.html?RI=P00119
Free admission, retiring collection.
The church is just behind Centre Point/Tottenham Road Court station.

 

 

 

Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich: organ recital

Ourania Gassiou, organ
Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. 13 March 2016

Music by CPE Bach, Böhm, Froberger, Fischer, Gottlieb Muffat, Sweelinck, JS Bach.

WP_20160313_19_33_10_Pro.jpgChrist’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich was consecrated 400 years ago, in 1616. The chapel and adjoining almshouses were the first of the charity foundations set up by the wealthy actor, Edward Alleyn, owner of the manor of Dulwich.  Shortly afterwards, the foundation’s status as a educational college was confirmed, leading to the present day Dulwich College.

At about the same WP_20160313_19_35_32_Pro.jpgtime the Chapel’s first organ was installed. In 1760 it was replaced by a new organ by George England which, despite the usual additions and alterations over the years, still survives with a considerable amount of mid- 18th century pipework and a fine Gothick case. In 2009 it was restored back to its 1760 state (with modest additions) by the UK’s leading specialist on historic organs, William Drake. The original pitch (A430) and modified fifth-comma meantone temperament was restored.  It is now one of the most important historic instruments in the UK.

The Chapel arranges a regular monthly series of 45 minute Sunday evening organ recitals, the latest of which was given by the prizewinning Greek organist, Ourania Gassiou, 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