Maggie Hamilton - EditorFrom the current issue of Choir & Organ
THE BIGGER PICTURE
While Thomas Trotter was tripping his way gracefully through three Schumann Studies during his 30th anniversary concert as Birmingham City Organist, I looked up at the finely decorated pipes of the William Hill organ and thought of all the people who had played it since its installation in 1834. Thomas is only the seventh City Organist in Birmingham since Thomas Munden was appointed (also in 1834) – clear evidence not only that the post has been satisfying and rewarding, but also that playing the organ can prolong life…
Less than a week earlier, the Royal College of Organists (RCO) launched its 150th anniversary celebrations at Mansion House in London, and while being very much aware of the current educational work of the College as four students performed on the Mander organ for HM The Queen, we were also reminded in the speeches that we are part of a linking chain of history.
This issue has several examples of the past informing the present and future. There is a direct line between the founding of the RCO and its plans for the 150th anniversary and beyond (p.31); the reconstruction of the organ in St Catherine’s, Hamburg (see Gallery, p.21), took Flentrop Orgelbouw on a quest to discover the minutest detail about the organ that J.S. Bach played during his visit to the city; and the historic instruments in Innsbruck transport the competitors in the Paul Hofhaimer competition of that Austrian city’s ECHO festival back more than 450 years (p.60).
Six hundred years ago, St Andrews University was founded; its anniversary celebrations include plans to reclaim its reputation as ‘the singing university’ (p.67). And around the same time, the Christmas carol was born (p.17) – how has it fared through the centuries? In the more recent past, a relaxing of political constraints in eastern Europe has had a major impact on the way Poland’s composers write today (p.47).
T.S. Eliot wrote: ‘The historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence.’ Bringing together past and present and looking ahead to the future, in whatever context, encourages us to revisit founding principles as a check on where we are now, and helps us to shape the future with wisdom and integrity (politicians, please note). And perhaps equally importantly, when we see ourselves as part of a much larger scheme than our own limited horizons, it stops us getting too big for our boots.