I’ve been saying that the organ at St David’s Hall is not used enough. Even two days prior at the huge Beethoven concert from BBC NOW & WNO, did it only get three small appearances thanks to the composer’s Gloria.
In this afternoon concert, player Ghislaine Reece-Trapp gave us a variety of music for this king of instruments, as Anne Marsden Thomas MBE introduced each piece. We got an informal and accessible concert thanks to the dynamic between both musicians. Thanks to the screen on stage, we also got to see the manual and pedals of the organ thanks to the camera above the instrument. This worked well for the opening work the Prelude, Fugue and Chaconne by Buxtehude, as we saw mighty foot work on the pedals, in an ambitious music by a composer who should be more heard today. The Chaconne by Pachelbel was super sweet, a little medley soft with accompanying harmonies, adding to the short piece in it’s calming qualities.
Whitlock’s Five Short Pieces are each dedicated to people he knew (a la Elgar’s Enigma Variations) and these piffy scores are pleasant listening. The English sound lives in work like this, an all round merry mood, though somber when need be. A delight from Judith Weir and her Etrick Banks, inspired by this location in Scotland. She cleverly conjures up watery imagery, with bubbles, the tide, a storm and even rocks falling into the banks. Though a little bit fragmented, it still had some curious qualities that I found hard not the love. The sound of the bubbles was all round perfect in the lower range of the middle keyboard with swift playing from Reece-Trapp, who showed a great deal of talent through the entire programme.
Bach was expected and his Liebster Jesu appeased conservatives tastes, though still maintaining that stripped back beauty that you find in the great master. Vierne’s Finale to his 1st Symphony demonstrated the showy progression of the organ in the later decades of the 19th century (especially in France). There was grandeur and a pomposity to it all, you also got a feel of the outrageous music Olivier Messiaen would write a few decades later in Paris, in his own church.
Post concert, there was a chance for a lucky audience member to help demonstrate the organ. No one volunteered. I of course, would not miss this chance and went up. It was a delight for about 15 minutes to show off this great organ, with Ghislaine aiding me with the stops, as Anne directed me. I went a bit over board in trying out some chords, but I think the audience will recover. Even with just this brief experience, I found it to be a majestic organ, one I wish to play proper in the future. Thanks for the opportunity.
Reece-Trapp and Marsden Thomas are heavily involved in the newly formed Society of Women Organists (both are Co-chairs), though they do encourage men to also be involved. They are keen to work on the disparity in organ circles, aiding female musicians to consider taking up jobs in the profession. I’d centrally be keen to become a member, as I always enjoy getting a chance to play on what are in essence, remarkable instruments.
Afternoons at St David’s next see Orchestradventure! Beethoven Musical Superhero from RWCMD Symphony Orchestra on 4th February & pianist Jean-Sélim Abdelmoula on 11th February. Thomas Trotter returns on 23rd July 2020 for the Organ Prom with music by Coates, Bach, Best, Bridge & Laurin.
Photo Credit: Press Reader