The Organ Festival

Late spring is the time butterflies complete their metamorphosis and start busily fluttering their wings. As well as in our gardens and countryside, they can also exhibit their tremulous presence in the tummies of those of a nervous disposition, like students facing final exams or the innocent anticipating an important occasion. But on Saturday 19th May, our Organ Festival competitors were of sterner stuff: six young men who seemed quite immune to these lepidopteran manifestations, as they performed before Dr. David Flood and some fifty of our Association members.

This year’s adjudication took place at St. Philip’s Church, Maidstone, owing to the console repositioning and new piston system installation at All Saints’ Maidstone not being fully completed in time for rehearsal practice. St. Philip’s, with its landmark spire, was to provide a more intimate location, but was a greater challenge for the Advanced section candidates as they were required to perform, as their set piece, Dialogue sur les mixtures from Suite Brève by Jean Langlais, ideally requiring a 3-manual instrument; St Philip’s Bevington organ, rebuilt by Hill Norman & Beard in 1954, has only two manuals and pedals.

There was only one candidate for the Intermediate section, Alexander Bliss, aged 13, from Ardingly College, West Sussex. Alexander plays for school Chapel services and is a pupil of Janet McCleery FRCO. He played the Prelude from Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in F minor BWV534 and the set piece: Chorale Prelude on Rockingham by Sir Hubert Parry. His musical maturity, which quite belies his age, revealed in the Bach and his elegantly flowing legato phrases in the Parry won him, not only the Intermediate section, but also the special award for the most promising player.

The Advanced class this year attracted five candidates, ranging in age from 14 to 20 years. Jonathan Hope 18, attends George Abbot School, Guildford where he studies organ with John Belcher FRCO. First to play, he chose the Bach C major Fugue BWV545 together with the set piece, Dialogue sur les mixtures by Langlais, producing a variety of tonal colour in his assured unrushed playing. Matthew Jorysz, the youngest in the group at only 14, chose the Bach F minor Fugue BWV534 performed with a masterly breadth of phrasing, which complemented his excitingly rhythmic and colourful Langlais.

Jeremy Lloyd attends Caterham School where he has had organ lessons since 2003; he is also a member of St. Giles International Organ School Junior Conservatoire and has lessons with Gerard Brooks FRCO. Jeremy also chose the Bach C major Fugue BWV 545 giving a careful, almost stately, performance, which mirrored his Langlais, a rounded and precisely placed interpretation. Kris Thomsett, from Teynham near Sittingbourne, has lessons with Daniel Braddell and in 2006 became Organ Scholar at All Saints’ Church, Maidstone. Kris, adventurously, chose the Bach E flat major "St Anne" Fugue BWV 552, with his Langlais showing carefully placed rhythms and interesting solo colours.

Dr. David Flood with the six Festival Competitors

Geoffrey Tuson, winner of our KCOA Organ Festival 2006, has been a student at the Royal College of Music in London studying with Margaret Phillips FRCO. Geoffrey gave a recital at Canterbury Cathedral in April, which was well received, as part of his 2006 award. His chosen Bach Fugue in G Major BWV 541 showed an unhurried musical pulse and breadth of phrasing, with his Langlais displaying clear articulation and tonal colour, his maturity and experience showing in the legato sections.

Dr David Flood’s task to adjudicate and select a winner seemed almost impossible, the contestants all producing performances of technical quality and confidence. However, his forensic analysis, delivered with his velvet hallmark charm, proved intriguing as he took the competitors through their performances and, following his revealing appraisal, it seemed right that Dr David Flood should award first place and a recital in Canterbury Cathedral to Matthew Jorysz aged 14. David’s warm and encouraging approach added to the festival atmosphere making the morning an enjoyable occasion for us all.

Following lunch at All Saints’ Church, Maidstone, and with the organ console work fully completed, it was wheeled out into the Nave on its new movable platform for the candidates to explore and try the new piston systems and digital transmission.

Each candidate then played some demonstration pieces for us starting with our Advanced class winner, Matthew Jorysz, who played Toccata in G by Dubois. Kris Thomsett played a movement from a Bach Trio Sonata, Vivace in G from Sonata v1 BWV 530. Jeremy Lloyd chose Toccata from Whitlock’s Plymouth Suite and then Alexander Bliss our Intermediate class winner played his competition Bach Fugue in F minor BWV 534 and Parry’s Choral Prelude on Rockingham. Geoffrey Tuson played two interesting Dances by Alain and finally Jonathan Hope played the third and fourth movements from Vierne’s 1st Symphony.

We had been fortunate to enjoy the wonderful playing of six talented young organists, plus hearing two interesting organs, which had added to the day and Festival bonhomie.

The Winners: Matthew Jorysz and Alexander Bliss

Following the organ part of the day we were honoured to welcome The Metropolitan Duo, Prema Kesselman, Flute, and Tommy Harrington, Piano. Prema Kesselman was born in New York and began her musical training in Los Angeles where she attended the Colburn School of Performing Arts; she is currently principal flute of the Metropolitan Sinfonia as well as continuing her studies at Trinity College of Music. Tommy Harrington was born in London studying music from an early age with pianist and composer Keith Roberts. In 2003 he was awarded a place at Trinity College of Music where he is in his final year of a BMus. degree.

Prema Kesselman and Tommy Harrington

Their recital included music by Bach, Mozart, Busoni, Fasman and Zyman. The opening Bach Sonata in B minor displayed Prema’s warm flute tone and richness of articulation, a quality that remains the province of instruments of human breath control, a sensuous quality which can evade the mechanically blown keyboard instrument like the organ. The opening Andante tripped rhythmically along leading to the Largo e dolce with its soaring legato phrases, before the final stunning Presto-Allegro with its cascading arpeggios echoed in the piano part.

Adagio in B minor for piano by Mozart was sensitively played, with singing melodies wrapped in classical phrases, before we heard Bach’s Rejoice, beloved Christians BWV34a arranged by F. Busoni, an impressive virtuoso piano piece. Music composed by Barry Fasman for the documentary film: His Love: Sathya Sai Baba’s Theme, was music imbued with a modern cinematic romantic style, Prema’s captivating flute tone carrying the long legato passages. Prema Kesselman gave the debut of this engaging piece at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall New York in May 2005. The final work of the concert, in three movements, was Sonata (1993) by S. Zyman. The opening sparkling Allegro was followed by Lento e molto espressivo, the flute’s resonating tone soaring throughout the building, and a final Presto with stunning cross rhythms and arpeggios.

The Metropolitan Duo had played with an outstanding musical technique, their playing reflecting an intimate knowledge and understanding of the music. Their music and playing remained fresh in our minds, supplying an aesthetic accompaniment for our tea, providing a satisfying and enjoyable conclusion to an undoubtedly successful Festival Day.


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