Author Topic: A truly fabulous and utterly inspirational organ in South London  (Read 1808 times)

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TheMysticalOrgan

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Hello all. I know some regular readers of this forum will be sick of me going on about it, but I must touch again on the 1912 Walker organ in the church of the Sacred Heart, Wimbledon. I heard it twice in a little over a week in March - on Friday 16th March, Olivier Latry gave a recital on it to a capacity audience (about 600 people). His programme, which began with a marvellous piece by Reger which suited the organ very well, can be found at http://www.sacredheartmusic.co.uk/concerts/organ-centenary-concert/. Then, on Saturday 24th March, David Gammie demonstrated the organ to the East Surrey Organists' Association, whose visit I rather gate-crashed. He went through most of the organ's fifty stops (including three at 32ft pitch, two full length) and a good many combinations thereof, demonstrating the new Mander Vox Humana with a snatch of Franck (I'm afraid I don't know which piece). He then gave a short recital consisting of Bach's Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist (BWV671), Messiaen's L'Institution de la Eucharistie (from Livre du Saint-Sacrement, 1985), Dupré's Jésus tombe sous le poids de sa Croix (from Les Chemins de la Croix - very appropriate, as Dupré played and praised the S.H. organ on a visit to Wimbledon, on which he also inaugurated the Compton theatre organ [broken up twenty years ago] in Wimbledon Town Hall), Delius' On Hearing the First Cuckoo in Spring (as arranged by Eric Fenby) and a lightweight French-style Toccata on a theme by Haydn by a Norwegian composer called Arild Sandvold (1895 - 1984) - this last work makes the Toccata from Leon Boellmann's Suite Gothique sound like the last word in profundity!

We also heard, courtesy of Carl Jackson, a faultless rendition of a movement (I'm afraid I can't remember which it is) of the Elgar Organ Sonata (from memory and wearing huge walking boots!), and, from other players, the Bach Fugue alla Gigue, Reger's Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, said Reger Toccata again, a bit of Messiaen's Prière après la Communion (David Gammie, from Livre du Saint-Sacrement) and finally the Brahms Chorale Prelude on "Es ist ein Ros entsprungen".

A few of us had heard the organ on previous occasions, so knew a bit of what to expect (the same also going for David Gammie's superb playing - why this man isn't better known as a recitalist and recording artist I cannot think), but it was evident from the thunder- and awe-struck expressions on many others' faces what impact the organ had. The voicing is simply exquisite - even heard from the central chapel off the apse at the far end, the organ hidden by a huge stone reredos, the very softest voices make themselves heard clearly, yet the building is not a bit too small for the tutti, which is, close to, cataclysmic in its power, thanks in part to a superb, searing Tuba, four fiery chorus reeds (Great Trumpet, Swell Contra Fagotto, Trumpet and Clarion) and three Pedal 32ft stops (one quinted, two full-length). The flutes on this instrument are simply gorgeous, including a big 16ft Wald Flute on the Great (which goes under the misnomer Double Open Diapason - it really isn't one!), there are six 8ft strings (two undulating pairs, on Swell and Choir, plus a large solo Gamba on the Choir and a beautiful Dulciana on the Great which also doubles as a very useful Open Diapason No4), the Great and Swell Diapason choruses are very rich yet also truly brilliant - the 15.19.22 mixtures with only one break add so much more than they look on paper! The fonds are fabulously rich, just wonderful for Reger, Brahms and all the French repertoire. I've been to many organ recitals and got close up to many organs, but this is one of only two organs (the Ewell Willis being the other) where it has been with deep regret that I have torn myself away, remembering that I can't play the thing... I'm now seriously thinking about re-learning the piano with a view to moving up to the organ soon. If I can get access to that organ of a Saturday evening after the 6:30 Vigil Mass, they'll have to drag me off at 8:00 the next morning!

The organ can also be heard at the 11:15 Sung High Mass, with the choir, and also at the 12:45 Low Mass.

If you only hear one organ this year which you've never heard before, make it this one (or even if you haven't heard it since the 2010-11 restoration). It is utterly stupendous - a truly inspirational instrument.

There are currently two more recitals in the diary, as listed at http://www.sacredheartmusic.co.uk/concerts/.

 


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