Vehicles for prayer
26 May 2011
Zachary Wadsworth receives his prize© John Mitchell
The finals of the King James Bible Composition Awards were held in the Temple Church, London, on 17 May, compèred by British TV and radio presenter Katie Derham. The competition invited composers to write a setting of words from the King James Bible to celebrate its 400th anniversary this year. Category A was for less experienced choirs of up to 4 parts and keyboard; Category B, for experienced choirs of up to 8 parts with or without organ.
Principal adjudicator for Category A, Bob Chilcott, commented, ‘The general quality was very good. What I liked was that the composers chose rather unusual texts. We were looking for something that would have a precise shape – people need to understand it immediately. The compositional intent was very high.’ The category was won by Wiltshire schoolteacher Christopher Totney with The Mystery of Christ, setting texts from Isaiah, Revelation and Colossians; arpeggios in the piano part evoke the ‘water of life’, explained the composer. Chilcott described it as ‘having an attractive shape and sound; I could see it being sung by many different choirs.’
James MacMillan, principal adjudicator for Category B, said, ‘I was fascinated to see there was a concern by composers that they weren’t just writing concert music. When [the pieces] are done in liturgy, there has to be another kind of purpose – they are a vehicle for prayer.’ This was an important element in what the judges looked for: ‘a sense of time; first and foremost, these works are not for display’. Category B was won by Zachary Wadsworth’s Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind, a work of almost epic proportions setting lines from the book of Job charting a trajectory from doubt toward belief. Wadsworth, a graduate of Eastman School of Music and Yale University, is pursuing a DMA in composition at Cornell University. He had flown over from Canada to hear the finals, completely unaware that his piece was to win the category. After the presentation of the awards, he described himself as ‘completely shocked! I'm deeply honoured to have been chosen as the winner, especially given the wonderful compositions of my peers. It was also quite amazing to meet so many people who have greatly contributed to the choral and vocal worlds! I was star-struck.’
The four shortlisted anthems in each of the two categories were performed by the Royal College of Music Junior Department Chamber Choir conducted by Joy Hill, with Daniel Moult at the organ and piano. Choir member Rosanna Cooper enthused, ‘I was brilliant to hear what composers of our own age did with the words and the music… the winning piece [of category B] had our vote from the beginning.’
New Organ School for Dorset
26 May 2011
The all-new Škrabl organ
A serendipitous gathering of musical and organisational talent in the Dorset town of Lyme Regis has spawned an Organ School centred on the church of St Michael the Archangel, and its new Škrabl organ.
The idea of the organ school was conceived by Andrew Nicholson, who runs a bell-hanging firm (and who spearheaded the Appeal for the new organ), and Dr Richard Godfrey, a retired hospital consultant and prize-winning organ teacher with extensive experience from the Salisbury Diocese’s Pipe-Up! scheme in Dorchester.
With generous start-up support from the Tindall Trust, the School aims to be largely self-financing and will operate as a non-profit making trust overseen by Nicholson, the Ven Paul Taylor, Archdeacon of Sherborne, David Bruce-Payne and administrator Desmond Chaffey.
St Michael's Anton Škrabl organ replaced a worn out Hele organ built for St Mary Major, Exeter in 1907, and transferred to Lyme in 1939. The III/41 mechanical action organ arrived from the factory in Slovenia in September 2009, and the installation was completed after three-months of building and voicing. The local community raised £300,000 towards the cost over a five-year period.
A three-day Winter Workshop which attracted 21 participants from as far afield as Cornwall and Kent last February has now been made an annual event, and the School's plans for the summer and autumn include a technical workshop offering tips on playing the organ with Richard Godfrey (11 June); promenade recitals run throughout the summer with Richard Godfrey (3 July), Alastair Simpson (trombone/organ 10 July), Paul Handscomb (17 July), Peter Dillstone (24 July); Linda Nicholson (31 July); Graham Davies (7 Aug), Polina Gerasimenko (piano - 14 Aug), Alison Davies and Alex Davies (saxophone and organ, 21 Aug); organ masterclasses include 'Stylistic Interpretation and Technique' with Anne Marsden-Thomas (8 Oct) and Liturgical Accompaniment with David Bruce-Payne (26 Nov).
Olivier Latry comes to Southwark Cathedral
19 May 2011
Southwark Cathedral’s International Organ Recital Series in June closes with a recital by Notre-Dame de Paris incumbent Olivier Latry. Marking Liszt’s bicentenary, Latry is playing the ‘Ad nos’ Fantasia & Fugue and one of the composer’s many transcriptions: the Pilgrim Chorus from Wagner’s Tannhäuser. The cathedral’s director of music, Peter Wright, describes the Lewis organ as particularly effective in French romantic repertoire, so Latry’s programme includes Widor’s Allegro from Sixth Symphony, Franck’s Prelude, Fugue & Variation, and one of Latry’s own hallmark improvisations. Wright says, ‘Olivier last played here in 1997 to mark the centenary of the building of the organ. With the RFH organ still out of action, [this] organ is the finest instrument on the South Bank of the Thames… it is important that it be heard played by some of the world’s leading organists.’
20 April 2011
The Choir & Organ Composition Competition 2011, held in partnership with the International Organ Festival at St Albans, has been won by Joute (Duel), a duo for trumpet and organ by Valentin Villard.
Villard was born in 1985 in Lausanne, Switzerland; he is choral director for the parish of Sainte-Cécile, Morges (on Lake Geneva), and is studying for a Master of Arts in Composition at the Amsterdam Conservatorium. A full interview with Villard will appear in the July/August issue of Choir & Organ as part of our New Music series.
The premiere of Joute is being sponsored by the Worshipful Company of Musicians and will be given by two Company Yeomen (former WCM grantees) on 16 July in St Albans Cathedral as part of the IOF Prize-winners’ Concert.
John Alldis memorial service
8 February 2011
John Alldis inspired his singers, whether professional or amateurCourtesy Dominic Alldis
A memorial service for John Alldis will be held in St Mary Abbots Church, 2 Kensington Church Court, London W8 4SP on 1 April at 12 noon, followed by a reception.
John Alldis died on 20 December aged 81. He gained international renown as a choral conductor for his ability to interpret new music, the creation of the definitive performance, and the continuing development of vocal expression.
Full obituary in Choir & Organ March/April 2011, on sale from 22 February.