Review: James O'Donnell at Douai Abbey, Sunday 7 June
8 June 2015
James O'Donnell outside Douai AbbeyCiaran Morton
The organ at Douai AbbeyKenneth Tickell
by Ciaran Morton
Friends and supporters of the Nicholas Danby Trust were
taken on a musical journey spanning four centuries in the contemplative setting
of Douai Abbey. The unadorned beauty of
the vaunted ceiling provided wonderful acoustics and a plain canvas upon which
the music could provide shape and colour. The first three pieces were played on the Tamburini organ, a one-manual
choir organ in the Italian style which showcased O’Donnell’s precise fingering
in Frescobaldi’s Toccata prima. Purcell’s Voluntary in G was followed by a
lively rendition of Toccata settima
by Michelangelo Rossi.
O’Donnell then crossed the chancel to play on the three
manual Tickell organ opening with the J.S. Bach Prelude & Fugue in D
major. The location of the organ and the
proximity of the audience gave a wonderful view of dextrous footwork required
by the opening pedal scale.
fugue et variation by César Franck delivered a change of mood
that was built upon by two pieces from Jehan Alain (Deuxième fantaisie and Litanies),
rendered with a tangible emotional intensity by O’Donnell. A reflective Adagio in E by Frank Bridge provided
a contrast to a vigorous and powerful delivery of Paean by Herbert Howells, with a major chord conclusion that
showcased the rich tones of the Tickell.
Douai Abbey’s original French location was famously visited
by Couperin, so it was fitting that an encore from him provided an opportunity
for calm reflection and repose at the culmination of an engaging and
brilliantly executed programme by O’Donnell.
O’Donnell is Organist and Master of the Choristers of Westminster Abbey
Danby Trust offers a major European postgraduate scholarship and undergraduate
bursaries to young organists of exceptional promise.
Bertie Baigent wins Stainer & Bell composition competition
1 June 2015, Katy Wright
Bertie Baigent has won the 2015 Stainer & Bell award for choral competition for his SATB setting of Christina Rossetti's An Echo from Willow-Wood. He receives an award of £500 and the publication of the work in Stainer & Bell's digital choral series, Choral Now.
Baiger is currently in his second year reading music at Jesus College, Cambridge where he holds the position of organ scholar. His works have won a number of prizes, and have been performed by Britten Sinfonia, Fretwork, the Aurora Orchestra, and the Choir of Jesus College, Cambridge in venues including the Royal Festival Hall and Snape Maltings. In Memoriam In Nomine won the National Centre for Early Music's Young Composers' Award 2011, and was described by Michael Church (The Independent) as 'an exquisite essay in post-Bartókian harmonies and textures’. He studies with Patrick Nunn.
Runner-up Rhiannon Randle, who set the same poem under the title On Life's Dividing Sea, will receive the offer of publication for her entry. Randle is currently studying for her M.Phil. in composition at Girton College, Cambridge.
Stainer & Bell said that the 2015 competitors were 'a strong field that has proved a ringing endorsement of the talent of a new generation of choral composers, refreshing a uniquely British genre of which S&B are proud to represent six centuries of national achievement.'
Stainer & Bell
Organists Charitable Trust elects new chairman
26 May 2015, Katy Wright
Alan Thurlow has been appointed chairman of the Organists Charitable Trust. He takes over from Martin Neary, who has held the post for 27 years.
Thurlow is organist emeritus of Chichester cathedral and chairman of the British Institute of Organ Studies. He was organist and master of the choristers at Chichester between 1980 and 2008, having previously held the position of sub-organist at Durham cathedral.
The trust assists organists of all ages who are ill, disabled or suffering financial hardship through grants and advice. Limited educational grants are also available.
Organists Charitable Trust
David Pickard named as new BBC Proms director
26 May 2015, Katy Wright
David Pickard, currently general director at Glyndebourne, has been appointed director of the BBC Proms.
Pickard, 55, will take up the role later this year, reporting to Alan Davey (controller of BBC Radio 3). He said of the appointment: ‘I am honoured to be asked to take up the role of Director, BBC Proms, and to follow in the line of such distinguished predecessors. After 14 wonderful years at Glyndebourne, I count myself extremely fortunate to have the opportunity to lead another of this country’s most exciting arts organisations. Like so many people, my interest in classical music was inspired by visits to the Proms as a teenager and it has been my privilege to play a role as a contributor for the past 20 years, firstly with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment and more recently with the annual Glyndebourne Prom. I look forward now to building on the founding principles of the Proms – to bring world-class classical music to the widest possible audience.’
Pickard was appointed general director of Glyndebourne in 2001. Under his leadership, the company has broadcast operas in cinemas and online; expanded its education and outreach work; and offered subsidised tickets to young people.
His previous roles include chief executive of the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment (1993-2001) and managing director of Kent Opera (1889-90).
Davey said: ‘David comes from a background of musical excellence and exploration, and will bring a whole host of fresh ideas to help us ensure the greatest classical music festival in the world continues to provide the place for people to discover and rediscover the best classical music. His achievements at Glyndebourne have included the discovery of exciting new artistic talent and the establishment of a range of new initiatives to bring opera to wider audiences through Glyndebourne’s touring, education and digital activities.’
Helen Boaden, director of BBC Radio, said: ‘David has an outstanding track record in bringing new audiences to classical music, as well as a background in both orchestral and operatic music. I am absolutely delighted he will be working with Alan to build on the success of the BBC Proms. I would also like thank Edward Blakeman for leading the Proms with skill and flair as Director, BBC Proms 2015, and on delivering another excellent programme this year.’
Edward Blakeman will continue to lead the 2015 festival.
Salisbury Cathedral commissions mark Magna Carta anniversary
21 May 2015, Katy Wright
Tarik O'ReganPeter Greig
Tarik O'Regan's A Letter of Rights and David Halls' Missa Festiva will both receive their premieres at Salisbury Cathedral in June.
Librettist Alice Goodman based A Letter of Rights on the two clauses from the Magna Carta which are still embedded in our laws today: those concerning justice. The work takes its title from Directive 2012/13/EU of the European Parliament and of the Council of 22 May 2012, in which persons arrested on suspicion of a crime are given a letter of rights in a language they understand.
O’Regan said: ‘I was drawn in particular to the idea of poise, something which came directly from Alice's libretto. By which I mean both the extremely intricate way in which parchment was made in 1215 (and which Alice references beautifully in her text), but also the delicate nature of the very language which was written upon that parchment 800 year ago, and its subsequent interpretations. As a result, A Letter of Rights has an almost ritualistic quality to it: palindromic, divided into several text-driven movements interconnected by instrumental interludes for strings and percussion.’
Goodman said: ‘Amongst the treasures of Salisbury Cathedral is one of the finest of the few surviving copies of Magna Carta. To all intents and purposes it is a holy relic. It was the fact of the Cathedral’s possession of this copy of Magna Carta that motivated the Canon Chancellor to ask me to write something for this concert. So I began writing with a sense of the importance of the document itself, the piece of parchment to which King John fixed his seal. As I wrote, I discovered the paradoxes of the Great Charter; how quickly it was annulled, how little of it still matters to us, and yet how long and how powerful its continuing life has been, and how much we owe to it and rely upon it.
Another work will receive its premiere the same weekend. Written by David Halls, the cathedral’s director of music, Missa Festiva is based on melodies from the plainsong Veni Sancte Spiritus. The text is believed to have been written by Stephen Langton, Archbishop of Canterbury, at the time of the Magna Carta.
A Letter of Rights will receive its first performance at 7.00 pm on 13 June 2015, and Missa Festiva will premiere at 10.30 am on 14 June 2015.
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