An Organists Diary
by Andrew Cesana

WRITING these lines on a balmy July evening gives me an opportunity to reflect on my first year as President.  

We have been very fortunate to be able to visit a number of interesting places, ranging from small village organs at East Sutton and Ulcombe, to mightier instruments such as Bromley Parish Church and the fine T.C. Lewis at St. John's, Upper Norwood. Even mightier still were the instruments at Eton College and St. George's Chapel, Windsor Castle, which we saw in May; a meeting I am sure will be much remembered for some time to come. 

I have to say that I have not been able to get around to as many organ recitals as I would have liked recently due to the pressure of other commitments, but I hope that the summer break will make amends for this. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the recital given by William McVicker in April at St. John's Upper Norwood, which included music by J. S. Bach and the magnificent Sonata Eroica by Joseph Jongen. Earlier in the day I attended the AGM of the Southwark and South London Society of Organists which was held at St. Augustine's Church, Tooting which contains a fine T.C. Lewis organ. This was originally at St. Peter's Church, East Dulwich and transferred to St. Augustine's, Tooting following the closure of St. Peter's Church in the 1980s. This was on the advice of Dr. Harry Bramma, the President of Southwark and South London association, who demonstrated the organ prior to the AGM.

I am getting thoroughly hooked on computers since having acquired a new Amstrad e-mailer plus phone which is very good value for money. I am now getting to know the ways around the system and have been finding some very interesting websites. There are some fascinating websites waiting to be discovered and I have certainly discovered a number of them.    

I realise that one of the more local sites is "cathedralchoirsmoonfruit.com". Unfortunately, this is one of the sites I have had trouble accessing due to the fact that the website in question hasnot got facilities to accept low graphic browsers. Otherwise I have been able to see websites in France and Belgium (including a number of organ ones which are really fascinating) and the real crowning glories are the websites of Notre Dame Paris and that of St. Sulpice with its fine Cavaille Coll organ. Now, one wonders, will our KCOA consider making a trip to Paris? Certainly, the IAO Congress in Paris will be a wonderful experience in such a short space of time between the 19th and 23rd July. I wish those KCOA members, who are attending, all the very best and hope that some may be able to visit the fine tribune at St. Sulpice on the Sunday. Sophie Veronique Choplin will be giving a demonstration recital after the 12 noon Mass for the 300 delegates attending.    

I have thoroughly enjoyed the 2nd London Improvisation Course which took place from 8th to 11th July. The course tutors were Gerard Brooks, Duncan Middleton and Loic Malliť from the Paris and Lyons Conservatoires, although he is about to relinquish Paris in order to take on a similar position at San Sebastian Conservatoire in Spain.  

After, the initial session at The City Temple, the participants were divided into three groups according to ability. The three organs used for tuition were: The City Temple, Holborn Viaduct; St. James' Clerkenwell - which contains a fine G.P. England organ - and the eminent organ at Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square. 

Each group had a session on each of the three organs with each of the three tutors at each of the three instruments on consecutive days. This year, however, there was an opportunity for two individual lessons. In my case I received individual tuition from Gerard Brooks at All Souls, Langham Place, although the fire alarm went off ten minutes before the lesson finished, just as it had done two days previously before Loic Malliť's concert! This was due, in one case, to some sausages overheating.    

The final concert at Notre Dame de France on the Thursday was a great success and most of the students participated with some very good results. A third course is in the process of being planned for next year. 

I am looking forward this week to attending the "Improvisation for all" course at the Sarum College in Salisbury. The tutors for this course this year are Martin Baker, Master of Music at Westminster Cathedral, Andrew Smith, Director of Music at St. Peter's, Eaton Square and Michael Novenko from Prague who is renowned for twelve tone row improvisations - that should be a rather interesting experience. The course there lasts for three days and it will also give me an opportunity to discuss the KCOA visit there for next year. I am looking forward to the opportunity of improvising on the Cathedral's fine Father Willis there.  

The last two interesting events were the recital given by Roger Fisher at St. Nicholas Church in Strood, which featured music by Bach, Hollins, Elgar and Bossi, as well as Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel Overture, Vierne Naiaides. There was also Mendelssohn's Organ Sonata no.1 in F minor op.65. no.1. It was truly memorable to have had the Organist Emeritus of Chester Cathedral and Features Editor of the Organists' Review give a recital at Strood. His performance of the Bach Passacaglia in C minor BWV 582 brought many fond memories of the performance he gave of the same work at Chester Cathedral in August 2000 during the B.I.O.S  Annual Residential Conference there. Sadly, the next recital by Christoph Lorenz on Saturday 31st August has had to be cancelled owing to his indisposition.

The following Saturday, I hosted members of the East Surrey Organists' Association at Strood prior to their visit to Rochester Cathedral for Evensong and a demonstration by Roger Sayer after Evensong, following which members were invited to play including what was thought to be a newly discovered transcription of an improvisation by Pierre Cochereau on the National Anthem. I shall leave to the imagination who the performer was on this occasion!    

Well, my view for the rest of the week will be overlooking the great spire of Salisbury Cathedral and, if the weather is as good, it will really be something spectacular. What a lovely city Salisbury is! May I take the opportunity of wishing you all a happy and pleasant summer and good organ playing wherever you may be.

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