Current Issue

February 2017 - April 2017 (Number 379)

Issue 379 includes features on: as well as lots of news from the UK and abroad, reviews of choral and organ CDs, books, concerts, new organ music, new installations, letters, and more.

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For previous editions of The Organ, see our index of back issues.

Cover of Organ magazine current issue


The Organ Music of Kenneth Leighton (1929-1988)

Kenneth Leighton

Adam Binks

To complement the release on the Resonus label of a three-CD set of Kenneth Leighton’s complete organ music, including his collaborative works for the instrument, we are pleased to publish this short essay, on the most significant body of organ music by any British composer of the twentieth-century.

‘Like all great gifts of God, music is a mysterious and paradoxical thing which can be used or misused, and which encompasses every part of our being, body, mind and soul.’ Kenneth Leighton

As a treble chorister from 1938, many of Kenneth Leighton’s formative musical experiences were accompanied by the 1905 Abbott and Smith organ of Wakefield Cathedral, in the West Yorkshire city where he was born and educated. As well as informing his writing for both organ and choir, Leighton repeatedly praised the importance of his time in the choir stalls throughout his life, stating ‘My whole background is choral church music. I think one’s early background is terribly important’ and ‘[...] my career as a Cathedral chorister left some of the most vivid impressions in my mind of that time of life [...] what a marvellous musical training.’ Given this musical upbringing that left such a mark, it was perhaps inevitable that Leighton would go on to write a great deal of choral music, mostly liturgical, as well as works for the organ.

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Composers’ Anniversaries 2017

Composers’ Anniversaries 2017

John Collins

The author presents his annual commemorative guide to composers whose organ music may form part of recitalists’ programmes this year.

In 2017 there are several composers whose anniversaries can be commemorated, albeit some of the dates are not known for certain; some of the names need no introduction but there are also several lesser-known names listed here whose compositions are well worth exploring. No claim is made for completion - and there is no guarantee that every edition is in print – there may well also be editions by other publishers.

An increasing number of pieces, ranging from complete original publications/mss (which present the usual problems of multiple clefs as well as original printer’s errors) to modern versions of complete or individual works, are to be found on various free download sites, most noticeably IMSLP; however, the accuracy of some modern typesettings is highly questionable, and all should be treated with caution before use.

Johann Jakob Froberger 1616-67 (pictured) who spent much time as court organist in Vienna can be regarded as the most influential keyboard composer of the second half of the 17th century. A brief overview of his life and works was included in Anniversaries for 2016 published in The Organ, no. 375, Feb-April 2016.


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Kaikhosru Shapurji Sorabji in Iowa


Gregory Hand

The author, Associate Professor Organ at the University of Iowa, traces the background to the greatly significant North American premiere of Sorabji’s monumental Second Organ Symphony, to be given on the new instrument of the University on February 10th, played by Kevin Bowyer.

“Once he [Sorabji] had begun to compose, however, the floodgates of his imagination burst and a tremendous river of musical creativity flowed forth.” --Alistair Hinton.

In the Summer of 2008, the Iowa River overflowed its banks and filled the University of Iowa’s Voxman Music Building with 18 inches of muddy water. This event was catastrophic for the university’s School of Music, especially for the Organ Department, whose instruments were badly damaged. The building was soon judged a total loss, and the university, in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), decided to replace it with a new facility. A new concert hall was designed well outside the floodplain, along with a new organ to replace the 1971 Casavant that was impossible to renovate and install in the new building.

In the Fall of 2016, the School of Music was finally brought together again in the new Voxman Music Building, a beautiful piece of architecture located in downtown Iowa City and the heart of the university campus. The building is one of the most state of art music facilities in the United States, with recording studios in every major performance space, including the 700-seat concert hall and 200-seat recital hall.


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Nico Declerck

The author outlines the background and initial plans for the setting up and launch of the world’s first radio station devoted wholly to the Organ and its serious repertoire.

I begin with a few words about myself: I’m a soon to be 48 year old Belgian organist with parishes in Turnhout (organ Le Royer 1662/Potvlieghe 1997) and Hoogstraten (organ Pels 1961 and organ Thomas 2004), I organize approximately 20 concerts a year and try to convince the world how beautiful organ music is. Simultanously I have worked for 20 years as stage manager at the Flemish Opera and spent time in Bayreuth (D) and the Edinburgh festival. Working in the world of opera has a lot of benefits: a combination of many artforms (Gesamtkunstwerk), you are confronted with amazing masterpieces from Jean-Phillipe Rameau until György Ligeti and you work with such a variety of talented people to create the fantasy world of opera and story telling.

In December 2015 I presented the manager of KLARA (Flemish classical radio) the idea that I would like to produce an organ programme with a new and young dynamic energy. She was friendly but politely refused because the policy is not to produce programmes for a specific public anymore. At the same time in the Netherlands their organ programme Musica religiosa on Radio 5 was transformed into a religious programme instead of one hour of diverse organ music.

Those two disappointments were for me the motivation to investigate a way to produce your own radio station. That’s how I discovered They host around 50.000 radiostations. You can only listen to those radiostations through an internet connection. Radionomy gives you the space on their servers, they allow you to use their software and they pay the necessary rights to broadcast. In return they ask you to create an audience who are listening at least 130 hours a day and they put twice 2 minutes of adverts every hour on your radio.


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Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889) set for Chorus and Organ

Gerard Manley Hopkins

Peter Dickinson

The distinguished composer writes on the background to his original composition which was begun in New York in 1960 and completed four years later.

I had been interested in the poetry of Hopkins for some years before I started on my Four Poems of Gerard Manley Hopkins for SATB, soloists and organ, in 1960. I admired the poet’s fresh and idiosyncratic use of language so remarkable for its period but I was never attracted to his Roman Catholicism – he was a Jesuit priest.

What a tragedy that the poetry of this most experimental of Victorians was not published until well after his death: a saga comparable to that of Emily Dickinson, who also achieved posthumous fame. The Four Hopkins Poems was my first commissioned work and has recently come back to my attention as a result of a performance by the choir of Trinity College, Cambridge. The cycle originated in a distinguished series for St Matthew’s Church, Northampton. These commissions, including works of art by major figures such as Henry Moore and Graham Sutherland, were the brainchild of the Rev. Walter Hussey, Vicar of St Matthew’s Church; from 1955 Dean of Chichester Cathedral; and a remarkable patron of all the arts. Of the St Matthew’s musical commissions, Britten’s Rejoice in the Lamb (1943) is the best known; Rubbra wrote a short piece, The Revival, the following year; and Britten suggested Lennox Berkeley to Hussey which resulted in Berkeley’s ambitious Festival Anthem in 1945. Further commissions included Finzi’s Lo, the Full Final Sacrifice in 1947 and Malcolm Arnold’s Laudate Dominum in 1950.


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The House of Brindley – an update


As regular readers will know, several years have passed since we announced our intention to publish a new book by Bryan Hughes, following our successful publication of two of Mr Hughes’s earlier studies, on The Schulze Dynasty: Organ Builders 1688-1880 and John Laycock, Weaver and Organ Builder, these earlier books having been published under the auspices of the previous owners of Musical Opinion Limited (which company also embraces The Organ), who had given an undertaking to Mr Hughes for the publication of his third volume of organ studies.

If you would like to be included in the printed Subscribers’ Pages, and have not yet committed to purchasing a copy of the book at the pre-publication price, there is still time to register your intent. Please email as soon as possible, and your name will be added to the list of Subscribers.

We very much hope and believe that, when Mr Hughes’s book is published at last, around the middle of this year, it will form a valuable addition to scholarship and go a long way to satisfying the interests of organ-lovers both in this country and across the world of the work of this legendary Company.

Robert Matthew-Walker, Editor, The Organ, January 2017

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Organ Appeal for the Vowles organ of Mansfield College, Oxford University

Vowles organ of Mansfield College

Curtis Rogers

Mansfield College has launched a campaign for the restoration of its Vowles organ, which was featured in The Organ’s series on the organs of Oxford University. It has not been heard for several years but, once work is completed, it will sound again and form an important part of the heritage of pipe organs in Oxford.

Dating from 1890, it is regarded as one of the best works from the Bristol firm of Vowles, and is one of only a few English Romantic organs to survive essentially intact amongst either the University or churches of Oxford. As various colleges and institutions over the decades have repaired existing instruments or installed new ones in accordance with a diverse array of imperatives and preferences, there is a rich variety of organs functioning within the city. But where the traditional English Romantic organ perhaps once fell out of fashion, there is a revival of interest and a renewed urgency in restoring those distinctive and fine instruments which do survive from that period.

Bringing the organ to life again would crown the musical and ecclesiastical life of Mansfield College, enabling it to take a full part in serving the needs and interests of students, musicians, and the wider community.

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Bloomsbury Organ Day 2017

Hale at Bloomsbury

The seventh annual Bloomsbury Organ Day organised jointly by Organists Online and Music in Bloomsbury was held on the 28th January at Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church. The basic structure of the Day remains unchanged with various recitals, presentations and the opportunity to purchase music and CDs; other organ-related organisations also exhibit throughout the afternoon.

This year, for the first time, there was no set theme as such, this flexibility permitting a wide range of performance repertoire together with presentations on different topics throughout the afternoon. A big advantage of this Organ Day is that one simply doesn’t need to leave the building: the full buffet, ongoing refreshments and all of the various events are all conveniently situated under one roof! The comprehensive Binns / Shepherd organ is becoming well-known on the London scene by the monthly buffet concerts and other events involving international players.

Simon Williams opened proceedings with a striking presentation on the recent educational innovations of the RCO and was later able to illustrate examples from the virtual learning site - i.RCO in the display area. The students who performed in the presentation demonstrated a wide range of abilities and ages - not just high-fliers - and it was a joy to behold the enthusiasm of these students at different stages of their musical development.

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We should like to point out that the cover story in our last issue, The New Organ in the Cathedral of Vila Real by Franco Nikora, was translated by Andre Jolliffe.


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