MARTY HAUGEN - pastoral music day - Saturday 30th June 2012
Marty Haugen, the popular American liturgical composer displays a simple, uncluttered elegance to his music. There is also a very deep respect for tradition informing everything he writes.
These qualities were all evident when he came to Brentwood Cathedral at the end of June for a one-day workshop on his music, hosted jointly by the diocesan Music and Adult Religious Education Departments.
He is an engaging and skilled presenter, with the knack of knowing when to illustrate points with humour, often affectingly self-depreciating. His own personal spiritual journey has taken him from his Lutheran roots through to working in the Roman Catholic Church and he draws on the richness of all of those to bring a fresh understanding to the place of music in modern worship. This is further deepened by his knowledge of the development of Christian worship from Jewish traditions, especially when it comes to the Psalms.
All of this he readily shared with the 70 people who attended the workshop in the Brentwood Cathedral Parish Hall. He took them through his Mass settings, explaining how he has adapted the popular Mass of Creation to accommodate the revised Roman Missal, and introducing his relatively new Storrington Mass.
His sessions on the Psalms were a real tour de force. Together with Tony Alonso he has written new or revised settings for the entire liturgical cycle and brought them together in The Lyric Psalter. Some of these we were privileged to be the first group anywhere in the world to sing. As impressive as the musical achievement of setting the whole psalter is the rigour of his understanding of their context and structure, much of which he shared with us.
Many of the new psalm responses are influenced by Taizé which gives them a particularly meditative quality within Haugen’s musical style. They have that precious potential to remove the singer from the physical environment they occupy to a more spiritual place which, surely, is one of the hallmarks of great liturgical music. It isn’t always about the grandness of the harmony, the complexity of the counterpart or the power of a forceful melody – plainchant wouldn’t have survived if it was. Sometimes it is about simplicity, gentleness and understated elegance. That is what we experience throughout this enlightening day.
© David Worsfold, July 2012
... and more
For many participants, who had not had the opportunity to attend a workshop with Marty Haugen before, much of the music was new. 'All are welcome', one of his well-loved compositions, set the scene for the morning in prayer, followed by a joyful setting of Psalm 146 'Sing Praise to God'. For those who had been fortunate enough to attend previous events, there was a new collection of Psalms, part of a project undertaken in collaboration with the young American composer Tony Alonso to set every psalm that appears in the three year cycle for Sundays and Feasts. Tony's music is in a similar lyrical style to Marty Haugen's, hence the combination works well. Although the project is ambitious, its fruits are very valuable in giving voice to the psalms for our Sunday Eucharist. During the afternoon, amongst other repertoire, we sang through the revised Mass of Creation, one of the most widely sung settings in the USA, and included in hymnbooks here, followed by the more recent Storrington Mass.
Brentwood Cathedral chorister sings for the Queen at St Paul’s Jubilee service
Harry John, a member of the Brentwood Cathedral Choir and a pupil at Brentwood School, was one of the 40 young people in the Diamond Choir that sang at the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee service at St Paul’s Cathedral on Tuesday 5 June 2012. The service was broadcast live around the world. The Diamond Choir performed ‘Call of Wisdom’ a brand new piece written specially for the service by British composer Will Todd.
After the service, Harry spoke about his experience: “Singing for the Queen on Tuesday was an unforgettable experience. I was quite nervous before we started singing but I got wrapped in the music once it started. The composer of The Call of Wisdom, Will Todd, was really nice and had been in rehearsals with us and with Mr Carwood, the Director of Music at St Paul’s, on Sunday and Monday.
“We all really liked the piece of music and wanted to do it justice as well as do a great performance for Her Majesty. I am happy that it all went so well but sad that it is all over already! I will never forget being a member of the Diamond Choir and singing at the Service of Thanksgiving at St Paul’s.”
On Wednesday Harry was back in his normal place in the choir stalls at Brentwood Cathedral for the special Jubilee Choral Vespers with the Bishop of Brentwood. Among the music the choir sang was Parry’s I Was Glad and Vaughan Williams’ O Taste and Se’, both sung at the 1953 Coronation Service.
Harry was chosen from over 400 choristers auditioned at 18 cathedrals around the country. The Diamond Choir project was devised and carried out by St Paul’s Cathedral in order to include children from all over the UK in the Diamond Jubilee Service.
Celebrity Organ Master Class and Recital by Margaret Phillips - Saturday 21st April 2012 at the Church of Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead
International concert organist Margaret Phillips brought out the wonderful clarity, colour and range of the new two-manual Robin Jennings’ organ at Our Lady of Lourdes, Wanstead at special recital and masterclass at the end of April. Her programme embraced the music of five centuries and showcased every section of this fine new instrument which was specially built for the church last year. Margaret Phillips was full of praise for it: “It is a really splendid organ that I am sure will serve the parish well for many years to come”, she told the audience as she introduced the recital.
She was on top form for the recital. Her opening Bach Prelude and Fugue in C was a masterful combination of flamboyance and simple grandeur and set the tone for the evening which included a superb Mendelssohn Sonata in D as well as a delightful set of six musical portraits of an idiosyncratic group of French Carmelite nuns by the 20th century composer Jean Françaix.
BRENTWOOD CATHEDRAL CHOIR JOINS THE QUEEN’S JUBILEE CELEBRATIONS
First performance from the Choirbook for The Queen at Vespers
Brentwood Cathedral launched its participation in the Choirbook for The Queen project with a performance from the Choirbook of a setting of the Ave Regina by Cecilia McDowall at Choral Vespers on Wednesday 7 March 2012 at 6.30pm.
Brentwood Cathedral Choir is one of 80 national cathedral, college and other music foundations’ choirs participating in a project which has led to the publication of the Choirbook for The Queen to mark the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee this year. The project has been inspired by the remarkable legacy of The Eton Choirbook, the anthology of Tudor Music that was produced between 1500 and 1505 in honour of King Henry VII.
It consists of 44 anthems, chosen to reflect the very best of choral music written by living British composers in the first decade of the 21st century and includes 12 new compositions written specially for the book, including a composition by Sir Peter Maxwell Davies, Master of the Queen’s Music.
The Brentwood Cathedral Choir has been privileged to receive a set of the Choirbook for The Queen and will be performing four of the anthems from the book during this year as Director of Music Andrew Wright explained: “We have been pleased and highly privileged to be able to participate in the Choirbook for The Queen initiative for the Diamond Jubilee of Her Majesty The Queen. Apart from the contribution we are able to make to this exciting project, it will be of great prestige to the Cathedral here in Brentwood and form a very exciting and important part of the Cathedral Choir’s development.”
The full set of the two volume Choirbook was presented to the Bishop of Brentwood, Thomas McMahon, by Lord Petre, the Lord Lieutenant of Essex, at the Festival of Nine Lessons and Carols at Brentwood Cathedral last December.
Speaking at the presentation, Lord Petre said: “It is a great honour to be able to present the Choirbook to Bishop Thomas on behalf of the Cathedral Choir. I am told that many of the anthems in the book are very challenging but I know that the excellent choir we have here under Andrew Wright’s direction will be more than capable of rising to the challenge”.
150th Anniversary of the Victorian Parish Church at Brentwood Cathedral - 3rd July 2011
The Cathedral Choir played a full part in the 150th anniversary celebrations of the Victorian part of the Cathedral at the beginning of July 2011. The 1861 building now forms the rear section of the present-day building and houses the choirstalls and the organ.
Two services on Sunday 3 July were the liturgical focus of the anniversary celebrations - the 11.30am Mass and the afternoon Choral Vespers – and both featured music from the Victorian era, some of which had been sung at the dedication services of the 1861 church and the earlier 1837 church next door (now the Parish Hall). There was also an acknowledgement of the modern Cathedral with the inclusion of a Christopher Walker psalm specially composed for its dedication in 1991.
The morning mass opened with the Bruckner Introit for the Dedication of a Church Locus Iste which was sung from the back of the building with the choir out of sight and created a perfect atmosphere for a prayerful and uplifting service. The choir was in top form as it tackled Mozart’s Coronation Mass – with an especially exhilarating Sanctus - R.R. Terry’s arrangement of Thomas Attwood’s Veni Creator and S.S. Wesley’s Blessed be the God and Father. Before the service organist Stephen King played the first movement of Elgar’s Sonata in G while at the end he was joined at the organ by Director of Music Andrew Wright for a rare performance of the Samuel Wesley Duet for Organ.
Vespers attracted another large congregation which set the tone for a moving service with their singing of Abide With Me to the famous Eventide tune composed by William Henry Monk in 1861. The choir added to the sense of occasion with a full-throttled rendition of Psalm 121 in Hubert Parry’s well-known setting. The Magnificat was one that was well-established in Anglican liturgies by 1861 – Thomas Walmisley’s setting on D minor while the main motet was a complete performance of Mendelssohn’s Hear My Prayer.
The service concluded with a piece very definitely from the Roman Catholic repertoire of the time, Vincent Novello’s simple, charming An Evening Prayer to the Virgin Mary from his massive collection of Music for Convents. The organ voluntary was this time from S.S. Wesley with Stephen King playing his Choral Song.
The specially produced service book includes an introduction by David Worsfold explaining the choice of music.
Anniversary of the Covenant between The Cathedral Parish of St Mary & St Helen, Brentwood and The Anglican Parish of St Thomas of Canterbury, Brentwood, 30th January 2011
Fr Martin Boland, Dean of the Cathedral was joined by Fr Colin Hewitt, Parish Priest of St Thomas', at a service of Choral Vespers, held in in the Cathedral on Sunday 30th January 2011, when the Covenant between the two parishes was celebrated.
Messiah raises the roof - Saturday 11th December 2010
The full force of the extraordinary appeal of Handel’s Messiah was vividly experienced by both performers – especially the ‘scratch’ choir – and audience at Brentwood Cathedral just before Christmas.
This wasn’t a routine performance of a work that many might feel suffers from over-familiarity as everyone’s contribution was first class, vibrant and totally committed. Much of the credit for this goes to Andrew Wright’s direction which inspired the performers, especially the 80-strong choir, to bring out the full drama of Messiah. Andrew’s sympathy for the sometimes awkward acoustic of the Cathedral was plain all the way through the work but never more so than at the climaxes of the big choruses where he judged the pauses to split second perfection matched perfectly by the crispness of the choral entries.
A key ingredient of the success of the Singalong or Scratch Messiahs at Brentwood Cathedral has been the quality of the soloists and the orchestra and the quartet from two years ago returned to deliver some stunning performances, surpassing their previous excellence. Julia Wilson-James, Rebecca Lodge, Nathan Vale and Stephen Charlesworth produced many highlights during the evening and I am sure everyone had their favourites but for me the bass aria ‘The trumpet shall sound’ stole the show as Stephen Charlesworth’s powerful delivery was wonderfully complimented by the trumpet playing of Benedict Fox.
Which brings me to the orchestra, mainly made up of students from the London Guildhall School of Music and led by Martin Wray. For many of them it was the first time they had played a complete Messiah and that lent a freshness and an urgency to the orchestral playing that was another of the memorable features of the evening.
Finally, the real stars of the show: the choir. With bad weather ruling out a preliminary rehearsal the week before, they had no more than a couple of hours rehearsal that afternoon and yet delivered a quality of performance that many choral societies would have struggled to achieve. It was no surprise to see many in the audience on their feet at the end applauding them.
Gregorian Chant Comes Alive - Saturday 16th October 2010, Our Lady of Lourdes Church, Cambridge Park, Wanstead
There was a palpable sense of excitement as people found themselves on a fascinating journey of discovery – re-discovery in some cases – at the all day Gregorian Chant Workshop at Our Lady of Lourdes in Wanstead. Under the expert and boundlessly enthusiastic guidance of Nick Gale, Director of Music at St George’s RC Cathedral in Southwark the world of chant was brought to life and given a fresh relevance to the modern liturgy with Nick’s enormously practical suggestions for its use.
This workshop was organised by the Essex and East London Area of the Royal School of Church Music so it attracted an ecumenical participation with the fifty attendees evenly split between Roman Catholics and Anglicans, as well as a Church of Scotland minister. Nick Gale carefully selected the chants to teach us from the Catholic and Anglican liturgies, further underlining the potential universal appeal of this timeless music. This created its lighter moments during the day with everyone – regardless of denomination – joining in a rousing rendition of Christus Vincit, including the line ‘Summo Pontifico et universali Papae, vita’ (To the Supreme Pontiff and universal Pope, life).
As well as tackling some settings of the Mass, including the Ambrosian Gloria and Mass XVIII, we mastered several hymns and chants for Advent and Christmas for both the Anglican and Roman Catholic liturgies. By the afternoon session ‘Rorate cæli desuper’ and ‘Puer natus in Bethlehem’ were being performed polyphonically in the church with a reasonable amount of confidence. We rounded off the day with a selection of chant from the Anglican liturgy for Midnight Mass.
The abiding memory from the day for all those who took part, however, will be the clarity of Nick’s teaching, full of knowledge and passion about how Gregorian Chant should be performed but never dogmatic. He was engaging from the first moment to the last, bringing every phrase alive and shining a new light on this great music.
Hosting the day at Wanstead was a masterstroke too as we could sit in a church where a new organ is being built, the striking new organ case already in place in the centre of the gallery at the rear of the church. This helped create a feeling of renewal and appreciation of the crucial function of music in enriching the liturgy.
In addition to the inspirational Nick Gale, many people contributed to the success of the day, including Roderick Sime, the Director of Music at Wanstead and Fr Pat Sammon for kindly hosting the day and Duncan Patterson (for RSCM) and Shirley Timmins (for the Diocese of Brentwood) for their planning, support and work in promoting it and attracting such a large and appreciative participation.
Tabakova world premiere is a class act - Organ recital by William Saunders, Brentwood Cathedral, 9th October 2010
While Iain Farrington’s Animal Parade provided the fun and fireworks of this extraordinary recital at Brentwood Cathedral there is no doubt that it was the world première of Dobrinka Tabakova’s Diptych that stole the show.
This beautifully crafted piece was commissioned by the organist William Saunders from the young British/Bulgarian composer and written especially with Brentwood Cathedral’s restored Hunter organ in mind. The two movements, Pastoral and Choral, were simple in structure but rich in sonority and harmony and were done full justice by Saunders. The Choral particularly caught the ear with its emotional intensity and sensuous, shifting harmonies. It is not hard to imagine this quickly establishing itself in the organ repertoire.
Elsewhere in this modern all British programme – put on to launch Saunders’s third CD Animal Parade (Regent Records) – the emphasis was on the colourful and spectacular, giving Saunders ample opportunity to demonstrate his well-honed, but never flashy, technique and his wonderful ear for registration. He used the strongly programmatic works in the recital to seduce the very appreciative audience with an extraordinary variety of sounds. Christopher Steel’s Changing Moods with which he opened the recital encapsulated that skill – a kaleidoscope of emotions and musical colour which set the evening up perfectly.
John Gardner’s Five Dances for organ showed why he is a composer that deserves to be heard more. The haunting Lament in particular stood out. This was followed by a confident performance of William Matthias’s Recessional no 4.
The main work of the evening, from which the CD takes its title, was Farrington’s Animal Parade. Its twelve movements must constitute one of the strangest pieces ever written for the organ and it is probably best described as a cousin for Saint-Saens’s hugely popular Carnival of the Animals, of which there were echoes in some of the slower movements describing the Hippopotamus and Blue Whale. It would be easy for music like this to slip into a sort of comic pastiche but, while it had its comic moments, Saunders never allowed this to happen because he lent it a feeling of artistic integrity that confidently drew the listener into the composer’s rather strange sound world.
For anyone who is a devotee of British organ music William Saunders' CD containing all this music and more is well worth an investment.
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama Recorder Consort
Noye’s Fludde by Benjamin Britten
The production of Benjamin Britten’s Noye’s Fludde at Brentwood Cathedral last week was a huge success with standing ovations from the audience every night.
It brought together huge forces from many different parts of the community to produce a thrilling dramatic spectacle and musical experience. As well as principals drawn from the Cathedral’s music department, there were over a 100 children singing or playing every night coming from St Helen’s, Campion, Ursuline, Brentwood, Brentwood Prep, New Hall and New Hall Prep schools. Noye’s Fludde calls for some extraordinary orchestral forces so the strings, recorders and percussion were augmented by the North Ockenden Handbell Ringers and bugles from the Royal British Legion Youth Band, Brentwood, resplendent in their red dress uniforms. To cap it off there was a selection of mugs from households around Brentwood that were turned into a percussion instrument to imitate raindrops falling.
Last but not least every audience – or congregation as Britten refers to them - became part of the performance as they joined in with the three hymns at crucial moments in the drama
These impressive musical forces were marshalled with skill and aplomb by the Cathedral’s director of music Andrew Wright while the dramatic side was overseen by director and producer David Worsfold.
The Cathedral was turned into an opera house for a week with a full lighting rig installed and a 24 ft long ark taking centre stage in the production. Over 100 animal head costumes were made by a dedicated team led by Mona Ince.
“It was a fantastic example of community music making at its very best and showed what a wealth of talent we have in and around Brentwood”, said David Worsfold. “From David Taylor as Noye and Sophie Biebuyck as Mrs Noye through the beautiful dancing of the raven and dove to the smallest cats and mice everyone was top class.
“The orchestra produced some magnificent sounds. There were the exhilarating fanfares that greeted the animals as they entered the ark, the fear and fury of the storm, the stunning recorder playing in the ballet scene and the warmth of the final hymn of praise.
“There was also an amazing amount of work that went on behind the scenes without which the production simply wouldn’t have happened. To see all of that come together in three outstanding performances was a wonderful experience and one that every person involved can feel proud to have been a part of.”
The story was moved from its traditional biblical time and location to present day Essex, which underlined its relevance to modern audiences, as David Worsfold explained in his programme notes.
The production took place on 4, 5 and 6 March. Profits from the production will go towards the Brentwood Cathedral Parish Hall re-development.
There is a wide selection of pictures on the Cathedral website and also on the Brentwood Cathedral Noye’s Fludde Facebook group.
For further information contact David Worsfold on 01277 221445 or 07885 348982 or Andrew Wright on 01277.265288
If people at the Met Office had seen David Schmidt’s programme of organ music for his recital at Brentwood Cathedral on 20th May, they would have hoisted cones and issued a storm warning. Because the atmosphere became very – excitingly – disturbed, first in Dupré’s Prelude and Fugue, later in Tournemire’s Victimae Piscali Laudes, later still in the music of Alain – Deux Dances, and finally (storm force) in Duruflé's Toccata.
In the manner of showers and bright intervals we were grateful for Boellman’s Prière à Notre Dame, from his Suite Gothique; and it really turned into a lovely day when David played Brahms’s Herzlich Tut Mich Verlangen, with the pedals, instead of snarling at us, supporting a tune which Englishmen recognize as the Passion Chorale.
David Schmidt deserved every decibel of the large applause. But the audience’s enthusiasm was tinged with sadness at the realization that this smashing recital brought to an end the 2008/2009 series of players from the Royal College of Music. Many have gone on to other places – David is now at the Dutch Church in Regents Park – but they all came from that College and trailed clouds of glory. Well done Brentwood Cathedral.
In the manner of a celebrity chef, Chad Kelly served up four distinct flavours for lunch – well, for a piano and organ recital.
For a start, on the piano he dished up the Sonata by Aaron Copland (who clearly had a grudge against the instrument: Director of Music, Andrew Wright, said the piano wouldn’t know what hit it). Fortissimo chords employing all ten digits gave way to a gentler ending.
Howells’s Psalm Prelude, on organ, had more acceptable harmonies, though he died only in 1983. It was good to hear this composer again, especially with all the stop-changes observed.
Back on the piano, Chad’s hands were soon scampering here and there, up and down, as Ravel’s Ondine got more excited. He must have been glad to get through that, momentarily forgetting that he still had a towering work to come: Bach’s G minor Fantasia, on the organ: but here we had a young man at the top of his form, who got his FRCO while still at school – a record? – and who is now an organ scholar at Girton College Cambridge. Lucky Girton: in all he did, from Copland to Bach, we were well fed.
On Saturday 13 December 2008, a Choir of nearly 200 was joined by the Aurelian Chamber Ensemble & Friends at a performance of Handel's Messiah. The success of the concert, which was promoted and organised by David Worsfold (Chairman of the Parish Hall Fund-raising Team), was assured by the enthusiastic support of Andrew Wright, Master of Music at the Cathedral, and Stephen King the Cathedral Organist, who on this occasion conducted the Choir and Orchestra.
Last minute problems with sickness prevented two of the soloists, Cherith Millburn-Fryer & David Webb, from performing. Their places were taken by Rebecca Lodge and Nathan Vale. And another twist of fate meant that James Devor's post at the the organ also had to be taken by a replacement, Michael Frith. The Harpsichord Continuo was played by Tom Little.
David Worsfold and the organisers were immensely grateful to the superb musicians who so graciously filled the missing places, and helped to produce a most wonderful performance of this great work. For many members of the Choir, and indeed of the audience, this was a superb first contact with the Cathedral. The concert, initially organised as a fund-raising event in support of the Cathedral Parish Hall, proved on the night to be a most moving and uplifting musical experience for all concerned. The evening generated a further £2000 towards the Cathedral Hall Fund.
Stephen King (Conductor) with the Choir and the Aurelian Chamber Ensemble & Friends
The Soloists: Julia Wilson-James (Soprano) - Rebecca Lodge (Alto) - Nathan Vale (Tenor) - Stephen Charlesworth (Bass)
David Worsfold introducing the Concert and paying tribute to the generosity of the sponsors.
Photographs by Dr Graham Hillman. Text by David Worsfold.
If you thought of it as a full English breakfast, that first item in Jonathan Hope’s organ recital in Brentwood Cathedral on 19 November would have kept you pleasantly full till dinner time tomorrow. Bach’s Great G Minor BWV 542 is a great mouthful of satisfying exploration of keys, leading into a fugue so jaunty that the player must surely leave the console limping. He didn't.
Bach walked two hundred miles (or two hundred km or one hundred and fifty miles according to who's telling the story) to hear Buxtehude play. Well worth the effort, he must have thought as he drank in that earlier master's ideas for organ music. Here was HIS Passacaglia, Bux BV 161, full of pre-Bach inspiration.
The fortissimo chord low down on the chorus reeds in César Franck's Chorale no 1 in E Minorhad, said Hope, recalling an earlier recital, tipped one listener clean out of his seat. It shook us too.
When things calmed down, we were grateful for the lovely chorale.
Vaughan Williams's Prelude on Rhosymedre, a piece beloved by RCO examiners, he played with disarming simplicity. It was a kind of sorbet to clear the palate before the hefty, enjoyable supper: Vierne's Final from Symphony 3.
This musical meal was a fitting conclusion to Organ Showcase, dreamed up by Cathedral Music boss Andrew Wright and loyal helpers from page-turner to programme distributor. Well done everybody!
What a perfect programme Charles Andrews chose for his recital at Brentwood Cathedral: first, a solid (none too easy) piece of Bach - the great A Minor, BWV 543, with its jaunty fugue subject and terrifying pedal solos; César Franck's chorale no 2 in B minor, with attractive melodies and rich harmony; and then the Duruflé. Well, anyone who's ever sung Duruflé knows it taxes the lungs a bit and you have to watch the intervals. But in his Suite No 5 you have to watch everything. Darting from one manual to another, the swell pedal demanding repeated adjustment and stop changes all the way (thanks, assistant!). That was the technical bit; but Charles's skilled fingers and feet producing music building to a thrilling climax which, as in the composer's choral music is hard work. But who cares? The organ handled the wind demands and we wallowed in the thrills.
This was the last but one recital of the year’s series by organ students from the Royal College of Music. Whoever comes last will have to follow that.
The elderly say policemen are getting younger and if they'd been in Brentwood Cathedral on 17 September they would say the same about organists. Here in the Cathedral's concert series Organ Showcase, was one who got his top diploma, FRCO, while still at school and now is a mere 19 years old: Chad Kelly with a programme to make most players resign on the spot.
The recital began with Bach's Passacaglia BWV 582, with its invitingly simple pedal solo at the start, which would usually sort out the men from the boys; except it did not sort this boy out. Kelly's interpretation of this, as with the Mendelssohn, Howells and especially the Messiaen was authoritative and, he'll get used to this expression, was played with a wisdom beyond his years. From that French master, who died only in 1992, we had two movements from La Nativité du Seigneur: Les Anges and the earth-shattering Dieu parmi Nous.
We should have uttered a prayer of thankfulness to whoever designed the wind supply to that organ, but we didn't. We were up there with the angels, marvelling that, Dieu parmi nous, God was among us.
A pub quiz is unlikely to ask for a list of the attractions of the London Borough of Harlesden, but in case it does, here's one answer. All Souls' Church has a young (she’s 20) organist and Director of Music, Hannah Parry, and she demonstrated her skill convincingly at Brentwood Cathedral on 16 July.
Mendelssohn's sixth sonata set the tone, and its contemplative last movement gave us all a chance to ponder our luck at hearing, over the last months, this procession of past and present organ students from The Royal College of Music. What made this one doubly special was the presence of her friend and fellow student Rachel Ridout. She brought her alto saxophone for the Fantasia on Veni Creator Spiritus by Proulx. Rachel, also 20, and Hannah moved in perfect harmony through this testing contemporary piece. Rachel's command of her instrument, which she has been playing since she was seven, matched perfectly Hannah's control of the cathedral's large three-manual organ. That was particularly evident in the final piece, Pièce Héroïque by César Franck.
A recent tour to Rome proved a tour de force for Brentwood Cathedral Choir. The tour, arranged with the help of Fr Andrew Headon, Vice-Rector at the Venerable English College in Rome and priest of the Brentwood Diocese, saw the choir perform throughout a packed weekend.
Choir at St. Peter's
An evening Mass and concert at the ancient Pantheon was attended by Frank Campbell, the British Ambassador to the Holy See. The highlight of the tour was 12.15 Sunday Mass in St Peter’s Basilica, at the Altar of the Chair, for which the choir also sang. Monsignor Bill Nix, who recently notched up 40 years of priesthood, and Fr Dominic Howarth, the diocesan youth director, concelebrated at the Mass. Fr Dominic also concelebrated at Mass for which the choir sang in the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore, during which the music included that of Palestrina, who had been a choir boy there in the 1500s. The choir, choir parents, and friends from Cathedral House were also warmly received at St Ignatio by their priest, Fr Feruccio.
Having been previously to Antwerp in 2001 and Paris in 2002, the tour was long-awaited and much enjoyed. The choir are hoping to make a trip to the United States next year.
Forget that feeling of satisfaction when you looked at the programme for Tom Little's organ recital at Brentwood Cathedral and spotted that he was to play the same Bach piece twice.
Based on the hymn Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, the two items had, it's true, what you might call different bar-codes; and therein lay the differerence. BWV659 was a calm, reflective setting of the tune, accompanied by the sweetest flute stop on the organ; and BWV660 is a cerebral fugal version, yet still preserving the chorale's appeal. BOGOF, as they say in Tesco: buy one, get one free. Except that both came in a free-admission recital with a voluntary collecting bowl.
So what else was free on offer? Reger's Dankpsalm began the afternoon's menu; a bit on the snarling side for a hymn of thanksgiving but including two suitably introspective passages; and a piece by Graham Fitkin, born 1963, in Cornwall. Tom sang alto in Truro Cathedral choir, and got to know him. The piece, disarmingly titled ORGAN (what else?) boasts what the Met Office would call scattered violent storms, but with sunny intervals. Tom Little handled the changes in the weather with aplomb. He brought the piece home from Cornwall, and it makes a nice change from the inevitable blood-vessel-busting jar of clotted cream.
Having come so far along the goodies in this menu, it’s amazing that I’ve left the best dish to the end: the Great G Minor of Bach, the Fantasia and Fugue BWV 542, where the fugue makes you snap your fingers, tap your feet and want to DANCE. Unless it’s you that’s playing it, in which case we listen to the jaunty fugue subject, the second voice and the third, then hold our breath and wait for the same tune in the pedals, which worried Tom not one bit. Enough to make us want to give up the pedals for good.
This piece added to the golden thread running through the whole concert: JOY, and thank heaven for the brilliant idea of tapping the upcoming talents at a London college.
One Wednesday in each month is the day to postpone your lunch if you’re in or near Brentwood: the next is 16th July: Hannah Parry – Bach and Reger again. It’s a winning combination.
And he made a little speech thanking the cathedral for putting on these recitals by students, past and present, of the Royal College of Music. It is, he said, a tremendous encouragement to us.
You can say that again, Tom.
RSCM/Essex & East London Music Committee
in conjunction with Brentwood Cathedral Music Department
Organ Masterclasses given by Margaret Phillips
(International Concert Organist and Professor of Organ, Royal College of Music)
Saturday 10th May 2008 in Chelmsford & Brentwood Cathedrals
A beautiful early summer's day, dry with hot sunshine, encouraged the 14 participants to demonstrate their skills to Professor Phillips and an audience of families, friends and fellow musicians in the pleasantly cool and inspiring interiors of our two cathedrals. In a two-hour morning session on Chelmsford Cathedral’s delightful 2-manual & pedal Chancel organ built by Manders, the 6 allotted players (details as follows) featured German and English music, a part of the repertoire in which Professor Phillips excels and is justly famed for, both through her extensive recordings (many of which were on sale on the day) and live performances.
Margaret allowed each player to perform their chosen piece in full, then concentrated on areas requiring improvement such as rhythm, time signatures, phrasing, registration, fingering and pedalling. All advice and instruction was given with a true empathy and understanding of each individual’s capabilities, and relayed clearly to the audience via microphone and speakers.
In Chelmsford Cathedral
The afternoon session on Brentwood’s impressive 3-manual & pedal organ installed by Percy Daniel & Co. in the Cathedral’s resonant acoustic, featured 8 players and again the chosen music was a mixture of English and German.
Most if not all of the players were unfamiliar with the Brentwood instrument and therefore needed guidance on the extra attention to detail needed to ‘play the acoustic’ effectively, particularly in a building which was empty apart from the Master class participants & audience. This session was considerably enhanced by the provision of a video-camera and large projection screen, which allowed the audience to view at close quarters the players’ hands or feet at the console. The equipment was kindly supplied and operated by John Miley who has provided this worthwhile facility in many cathedrals, churches and chapels in recent years.
In Brentwood Cathedral
Margaret brought our successful event to a wonderful conclusion with a recital of the following pieces:-
Bairstow - Scherzo, from Sonata
Bach – Christ, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam (BWV 684) from Klavierubung iii
Messiaen - Communion, and Sortie, from Messe de la Pentecote
Messiaen’s music was highly symbolic as the Feast of Pentecost was to be celebrated the following day. His Sortie, written to represent the mighty, rushing wind of the Holy Spirit, concluded the proceedings with an appropriately overpowering, almost terrifying, long-held chord on full organ!
Many thanks are due to all who made this event such a success, in particular John Rippin (RSCM/EEL Organ Representative), Andrew Wright (Master of Music, Brentwood Cathedral), Peter Nardone and Robert Poyser (Director of Music, and Assistant, Chelmsford Cathedral) and of course Margaret Phillips who made a very welcome return to our area following her hugely successful recital in Brentwood Cathedral a year ago.
It is to be hoped that an event of this type can in future become an annual fixture within this area’s organ education scheme, thus encouraging more players of all ages and, in particular, young organists, to take advantage of the helpful, friendly and professional tuition that is available.
Steve Knight 28.05.2008
There is currently running at the cathedral the RCM Organ Showcase Series. Extra to this, the cathedral hosted a recital by the Berkeley Ensemble – members of the Southbank Sinfonia with a penchant for British Music, and that for combined strings and wind.
Their attractively concise programme appealed well to the nature of the lunchtime setting here. And their performance was characteristic of a group who play together regularly and share a common understanding and insight into both the repertoire they play, mode of performance, and insight into interpretation. The Berkeley Ensemble is an assuredly complimentary band of artists.
Samuel Barber’s Adagio for Strings (1938) set the scene for what was a charming and inviting introduction to good chamber music and chamber music playing. John Ireland’s Sextet for clarinet, horn and string quartet gave a panorama of mood, ambience, colour, musical expression; those spontaneous post-concert vocalizations from the audience revealing an appreciation of the work’s diverse yet cohesive musical ideas – an engaging listen! One hopes to hear more from the Berkeley Ensemble in Brentwood.
A conversation killer: you were at a concert in Brentwood Cathedral and the first item was by a Belgian – a Belgian! – which called forth the organ’s full power and kept the hands and feet of the organist very busy. A Belgian? Yes, Guy Weitz, who died 38 years ago and, judging by his Antiphon Ave Regina, left you wondering what else he wrote.
It was enough to establish Liam Cartwright’s assured technique and, for all that the piece is largely unknown, made us look forward to the next piece all the more, for here was something by the master, J. S. Bach. But this was unknown to many of us – BWV 531, the Prelude and Fugue in C. It was an early work which is probably the excuse most organists give for not playing it. Just behold that opening solo on the pedals: that’s your true reason. Cartwright pulled it off with a flourish, and, this got him nicely limbered up for a piece by that well known pianist Franz Liszt. He twigged, as have many composers before and since, that, if you take the letters of the name Bach, and use the German nomenclature for those notes, you get what an Englishman would call B flat, A, C, and B natural. Play that on a piano and you get notes which make a thoroughly unmusical phrase. How could one possibly write a fugue on that? Liszt did, and by the end we had got the B-A-C-H message; four slow, hefty bangs on the head with a heavy mallet, delivered with painful accuracy. But you don’t go away whistling the fugue subject; it’s not that sort of fugue.
At last, we relaxed to a charming prelude on a familiar hymn, Be Thou My Vision, by Zsolt Gardonyi, who would now be in his mid-sixties, so we may hear more of him.
Finally, French, turn of the last century, a sure source of fireworks: three movements including the Finale from Louis Vierne’s Symphonie number one, with its solid meat-and-two veg Prelude and its seldom-heard dainty allegro vivace. And then the Finale, with its sparkling manuals and its stately pedal theme – almost drowned out by the aforementioned manuals.
So the procession continues, of former organ students from the Royal College of Music. Brentwood can be proud. The town, some divine is sure to say, is indeed blessed.
It’s a winning formula that Brentwood Cathedral has hit on: plan a series of concerts, call it Organ Showcase and chat up your friends – professors and students at the Royal College of Music – and promise anyone who’ll travel out to Brentwood and give a recital a magnificent three-manual organ in an acoustic to die for.
April was a case in point: Timothy Wakerell left the college in a blaze of glory last year and has since got his ARCO and the organ scholarship at Southwark Cathedral.
Freed at last from the intrusive rumble of trains, he could caress two of Brahms’s Eleven Chorale Preludes, Herzlich tut mich verlangen and Schmucke dich, bringing out their sensual beauty to the full.
Nothing sensual about Bach’s BWV 540, the Great F Major, which was tackled with the gusto it demands, including the two terrifying pedal solos. With that under his belt, we knew it was going to be worth missing lunch.
And we were well set up to face Messiaen, though this movement from his Pentecost Mass, with its bird-call-inspired phrases, immediately appeals, making his dissonances beautiful in context.
One delight which you don’t get at every recital – CCTV. It may be watching our every move in the world outside but here it was something of which even Bach might have approved. To use a boxing term, you could see every left jab of Mr Wakerell as he piled on the decibels, hitting one general piston after another in the Reger Fantasia and Fugue in d, Op 235b, which strained even this organ’s lungs. There are so many reasons to miss your lunch on a Wednesday in Brentwood.
By John Horton, 17th April 2008
The third event in this fine series was performed on Wednesday 12th March by Geoffrey Tuson, organist at St Andrew’s Church, Frimley Green and Mytchett, Surrey. Geoff opened his programme with Bruhn’s Praeludium in G Major, a bright and lively work that exhibits many facets of Baroque composition at its best. This was followed by J. S. Bach’s well-known Chorale Prelude Schmucke dich O liebe Seele, a very reflective and meditative piece which was beautifully and sensitively phrased by the performer.
The major item in this recital, Paul Hindemith’s massive Sonata no.1, a twentieth-century work, quite contemporary in places, is a thorough test of any organist's capabilities and Geoff handled its demands with finesse and style, showing great attention to detail.
Mendelssohn’s Prelude and Fugue in C minor closed the programme and, for this reviewer, it was a refreshing change to hear this fine work with its insistent and driving rhythms. Mendelssohn’s Preludes & Fugues are sadly absent from so many recital programmes as compared with his more popular Six Sonatas.
The Cathedral’s modest audience showed their appreciation of Geoff’s recital with warm applause. His performance and achievement was all the more praiseworthy due to the fact that vital preparation and practice time had been severely curtailed as a result of some technical ‘glitches’ outside of his control. Well done, Geoff, and we hope to see you and hear you again soon.
Fellow RCM organ student Ashley Marshfield gave the second in our Showcase Series. Ashley’s growing experience as a singer here at the Cathedral shone through in his performance. His awareness of the generous acoustics of the building was apparent in his use of the organ’s tone colours; the flute and solo reed stops were used to great effect. Coupled with a distinctive pacing and articulation of the pieces, this made for a charming rendition of a well thought-out programme including Bach’s great Prelude and Fugue in A minor, Howells’s Master Tallis’s Testament and popular favourite, Lefébre-Wely’s E-flat Sortie.
Words could never do justice to describe the inspiring, informative and sheer joy experienced by those who attended the day lead by composer, musician and renowned international liturgical facilitator, Christopher Walker.
What an uplifting start to 2008 it was. For over 100 people including catechists, teachers and musicians who gathered in the Cathedral Parish Hall on Saturday, 5th January.
Participants received wonderful teaching which was interspersed with music, song and short guided meditations. Christopher’s deep spirituality became more tangible as the day progressed. Starting with the principles of good liturgy we were then introduced to resources for Children’s Liturgy of the Word. The Lectionary was ‘Sunday’ and music resources to accompany the readings for the liturgical seasons, both produced by Christopher and Sister Paule Freeburg DC will have inspired and encouraged those who celebrate the Liturgy of the Word with children in their parishes.
Those involved with RCIA (the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults) received new insights for celebrating the liturgical rites of the process of initiation. It would be true to say that all present were deeply moved by the way Christopher engaged us with word, gesture and song, thus conveying the depth and power of the Rites. We are so fortunate to have available to us the resources produced by Christopher for celebrating these important Rites.
Another profound experience was an introduction to a scripture based Way of the Cross for Children, a resource for schools and parishes.
After lunch we were joined by musicians from a number of parishes whose gifts greatly enriched the afternoon sessions. We were led in music, song and reflection as Christopher shared more of his published and some unpublished compositions for the liturgical season and other occasions.
By 5.00 pm all were ready to take leave from what had been a truly uplifting and enriching day and with minds and hearts spiritually nourished.
In expressing our gratitude to Christopher for an outstanding day, our thanks must go to our Diocesan Director of Music, Andrew Wright, and to Margaret MacLeay at the Music Office who made this day possible. This collaboration with the Diocesan Advisor for Adult RE enabled the coming together of those involved in a variety of ministries in the diocese. We are truly grateful for his leadership and inspiration.
Download programme here as a .pdf file: 15th December Concert
You’d think an audience would come away disappointed after hearing Crosswinds, a quintet of worryingly young wind players, at a Cathedral lunchtime concert. Well, we were promised music by Arnold, Barber and Holst and, because of the generous acoustic we could not hear the announcement of what they were to play.
Whatever, it was superb, and the way these youngsters launched into each piece (flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and horn) with a minimum of hand gestures, eyebrow raising or a noisy intake of breath, bore witness to the fact that they’d all done it before, several times, and furthermore, thoroughly enjoyed doing it each time.
Older generations who shake their heads sadly and mutter about Young People These Days should have been there; and those that were will never say it again!
On 29th September 2007 Brentwood Cathedral echoed to the sound of Gospel music from the London Community Gospel Choir directed by the Revd Bazil Meade.
The audience of about 400 included 60 members of the Workshop Choir who sang with the main singers for part of the programme. The programme included well known favourites such as Swing low, sweet chariot and O happy day. The event was attended by the Mayor and Mayoress of Brentwood, Mgr William Nix, Fr Dan Mason and Mr Andrew Wright.
The concert was so well received there will a repeat performance in September 2008.
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