I think it would be impossible to start a review of April without mention of the exquisite music played and sung at the funeral of HRH Prince Phillip. It was simply wonderful to see social media and the press celebrate the outstanding performances of all those involved in the incredibly moving service.
Equally, how could a review of April not start with mention of the RCO’s International Organ Week. If you didn’t get a chance to watch some, all or any of the programmes, do take the time to catch up via YouTube. Each evening a fantastic line up of organists provided recitals, improvisations, ideas and information on various areas including; World Heritages Sites, Parish Churches, Theatre Organs, Masonic Organs, Young People and Education and culminating in interNational Organ Day on 24th April. Sir Andrew Parmley hosted the events with an array of announcers supporting him. I am sure it will have inspired and enlightened many in areas of the organ world we were previously unaware of.
In this busy month, the organ world celebrated the 200th birthday of Henry Willis. There were lots of photos and videos shared of instruments, one of my favourites being the one from Hereford Cathedral.
YouTube has continued to allow us to watch recitals and musical offerings from many more organists than we might usually be able to. Amongst others; William Saunders, Ben Bloor, Richard McVeigh, Peter Dyke, Paul Carr, John Challenger and Scott Brothers Duo have continued to entrain us with regular recitals and/or daily offerings. The RSCM held a recital, given by David Halls at Salisbury Cathedral. Meanwhile recital seasons have come and gone. The season at Leeds Town Hall has ended (although recordings are still available) whilst Gonville and Caius, New College and Norwich Cathedral to name but a few have started their term or season with a new recital series.
Alex Fishburn writes the guest blog feature this month for The Organ Manual, telling us of the organ at All Saints’ Church in Cheltenham and the fundraising planned for maintenance work. You might like to add his recital of 25th September to your diary, which will be streamed online if you’re unable to attend in person. The Organ Project continues a pace at St Mary’s Church in Portsea where recitals are too being streamed. Meanwhile, the plastic is down at All Saints’ Leamington as work on the organ draws to a close. Sadly in Derby Cathedral it is no longer viable to repair the organ, so we’ll watch to see what happens next there.
Regular readers will know I am always pleased to see projects involving young organists. I was delighted to read Queen Anne’s School, Caversham have recently acquired an organ from the sponsors of The Organ Manual, Viscount Organs Wales. It was also great to read about The Blue Coat School in Liverpool who have been awarded £5000 by the Brereton Fund for another five-year organ scholarship and to see some of the students feature in the RCO organ week programmes.
April has been a busy month for The Organ Manual. As I announced last month, plans are underway for a new online magazine to be launched in September, when the website turns two. Alex Trigg (Organ Scholar at St George’s Chapel Windsor and Organ Scholar Elect to St John’s College Cambridge) and I have been discussing our ideas and finalising plans. We’ve still plenty of work to do but we’re very excited by what we’ve achieved so far. The online magazine will be freely available to all via www.theorganmanual.com and will offer a range of articles about organ playing, exams, scholarships, courses, competitions, advice and more. Advertising will be free (at least to start with), in order to make the publication as relevant, useful and full of information as possible without funding being an issue. The idea is for it to support younger players of all levels, but especially those who do not have access to a wealth of contacts, support or finance to fund membership of organisations or to subscribe to other organ related magazines. None of this would be possible without the continued support of our sponsors Viscount Organs Wales. and the RSCM. As I said last month, watch this space for more news!
Before I wrap up, congratulations to Callum Alger, Ben Bloor, Andrew Forbes for reaching the finals of the 31st St Albans International Organ Competition. Their performances will be shown on a big screen in St Albans Cathedral, over three successive evenings 7, 8 and 9 July 2021 as well as stream online. Congratulations also to Luke Fitzgerald who has been appointed as Assistant Director of Music at Coventry Cathedral starting in September and to Ed Jones who joins Wakefield Cathedral as Director of Music in September.
Finally, don’t forget to watch the Cathedral Music Trust Quiz on 5th May, hosted by their new ambassador Alexander Armstrong.