There has been some buzz for a while now about a pipe organ that was commissioned by Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears making its way to Wales. This powerhouse duo of musicians approached Peter Hindmarsh to create a compact organ that could easily make its way into the Snape Maltings concert hall in Suffolk. Somewhere down the line, this majestic little organ lost its way and thanks to Dr. Chris Berry, St Teilo Arts amongst others it get a second wind (no puns here) here in Wales.
Peter Hindmarsh’s Snape Organ is a delight to look at and listen to. Made from Columbian Pine, the organ is compact enough to get into most functional concert spaces. The newly restored instruments has bright and breezy range, in keeping with a Barque sensibility. There are no pedals here and the white keys are black and vice vera, with a mere 5 stops to create variations in colour and volume. Through the brilliantly named Ystradivarius, John Cheer was the lucky boy to play on this fine instrument for the entire hour-long concert.
Cheer never waned in these pieces, with two of Handel’s Organ Concerti (in F, op, 4 no 4. & G minor, op 7, no 5.) as highlights. Here Handel is merry, drunk on the harmonious allure through the organ and sparse other instruments. There feels like some nods to Bach in some passages in the organ, attempting to be virtuoso like though never reaching that plateau. There is a pristine air to these concerti thank to the inspired brilliance that the Handel possessed, executed with vigour by the players of Ystradivarius.
Other musicians also shone, violinist Simone Pirri getting the spotlight for Corelli’s Violin Sonata (op 5, no 12: la folia). Here the violin gets strident solos, performed with fine ardour by Pirrir, who has a cheeky style and friendly persona. Claire Heaney on baroque flute had time to shine in Dornel’s Chaconne. This is a new one to me and held up as a great little discovery. The floating flute, cello and tender organ helped formulate a serene musical landscape that let wanting more. Pachelbel’s Canon and Guige is a famous, yet welcome interlude with Claudine Cassidy’s attentive cello for the opening section, with poised additions from Tim Cronin on viola and the other musicians all finding their way into the simple yet brilliant piece. It’s played at weddings for a reason, after all.
This was a birthday after all and Peter was treated to a pipe organ shaped cake, along with drinks. The atmosphere was laid back and even a few people had a go on the organ after the concert had end, something you wouldn’t see in many other concert venues. I had a cheeky go myself, trying out some Max Richter (which was perfect for this organ) and found it hard work to locate the right white keys since they were all black and much harder to see. Though a very subtle instrument, I install fell for it and wanted to play more. I was spellbound…
Even with talks of cuts and changes at the church (we wish them the best of luck with this fight), this proved to be an unplanned delight and a concert to recall fondly for some time.