‘An Organist’s Diary’
by Andrew Cesana

t seems ages since I first became President back in July after the AGM and, now with Christmas, I have quite a lot of events to report on since then.

The London Improvisation Course was a great success. Three churches were involved, namely Notre Dame de France, Leicester Square, the City Temple, Holborn Viaduct and St. James’, Clerkenwell. As mentioned in the last edition, the three tutors were Loc Malli, (Paris and Lyon Conservatoires), Gerard Brooks, (All Souls, Langham Place), and Duncan Middleton (Notre Dame de France). The course was held over three days, each involving sessions with the three tutors. On the first evening, Loc Malli gave a tremendous display of the art of improvisation at his recital that also included music by De Grigny, Bach and Messiaen at All Souls, Langham Place. There were three groups graded according to their ability and experience culminating in a final concert at Notre Dame de France on the last evening. Even those who had no previous experience of the art of improvisation participated in the final concert and, thanks to the hard work of the three tutors, they produced some very interesting results. I shan’t say who the last recital participantwas! However, it convinced those who perhaps couldn’t improvise previously that they could, with foresight and vision, and I am happy to say that a second course has been arranged for next year, from Monday 8th to Thursday 11th July, so if there are any KCOA members who would like to participate, please feel encouraged to do so! Details will be available as soon as possible.

The recitals at Notre Dame de France have been fairly well supported and they have included Harold Britton, Duncan Middleton and indeed three eminent French recitalists. They were Sophie Veronique Choplin (St. Sulpice, Paris) Loc Malli (Paris and Lyon), and to end the recital series, Pierre Pincemaille (St. Denis). He is certainly a spectacular improviser, and is known to improvise in Stravinsky style as well as the grand masters of improvisation!

It was lovely to see France and Belgium during the summer. I visited Chartres during a gloriously hot August for the General Chapter of the Order of the Knights of Our Lady and this culminated in a fine recital at Chartres Cathedral on the 15th August by Patrick Delabre. It included music by J.S. Bach and Vierne,culminating in a fine improvisation incorporating the Gregorian themes Puer Nalus est nobis and Ave Maris Stella, and a depiction of Our Lady fighting victoriously against the dragon! It was also lovely to see Rouen in summer and, yes, I saw the famous Cavaillé Coll at St. Ouen. A spectacular sight!

I was able to visit Belgium again at the end of October. My first night was spent in Mechelen in a hotel that was attached to a brewery! Rather appropriate as it served the Golden Carolus Beer! It was also within walking distance of St. Rombout’s Cathedral, which houses a fine carillon which played the Grand March from Verdi’s Aida as I approached for 10 a.m. Mass. For many years, the organ loft of this cathedral was graced by the presence of Flor Peeters, the famous Belgian recitalist, who composed much for the organ and published a three part treatise on organ playing entitled Ars Organi. After the 12.15 p.m. Mass Peter Pieters, the current organist, was presented with a copy of our Journal.

On then to Brussels on the Sunday afternoon to hear the new Gerhard Grenzing organ in St. Michael’s Cathedral, in a recital given by Louis Robillard, Titulaire at St. Francois de Sales, Lyon. The recital comprised music by Liszt and Franck and, to end with, the Dupré Symphonie Passione complete. Afterwards, I had a chance to meet both the recitalist and Professor Josef Sluys, Titular Organist of the cathedral, who was also presented with a copy of our Journal.

The rest of the week was spent in Bruge (Brugge). Although the Winchester and District Association members were not due until Monday afternoon, I managed an extra day in Ghent sight seeing, including St. Baaf’s Cathedral which houses, not only Belgium’s largest organ, (Klais 1935), but the stunning Adoration of the Mystic Lamb by Jan van Eyck dating from 1432.

However, the next three days were spent in Brugge with the Winchester and District Association. Four organs were seen in total, namely the Cathedral (demonstrated by guess who? as the Cathedral Organist was playing for a funeral at Our Lady’s church nearby) and then St. Walburga on the Tuesday, which our own Association visited in October 1999 (and the memento of the visit is still in the Visitors’ book!). On the Wednesday we visited St. Gillis (ideal for Bach, etc.) and St. Peter’s Church, Oostkamp, situated about three miles from Bruges, with its fine Jacobus van Eynde organ of 1717, historically reconstructed by Verscheuren in 1989. Further copies of the Journal were presented during the course of the visit!

I look forward to the time that I still have with you as President. I am negotiating as to the setting up of the new “Website”. (Are there any members who have knowledge of the computer industry in order to help here?). More importantly, recruitment and means of recruitment will be looked at in closer detail. Our Journal is receiving much appraisal from other local Associations besides our own, and I certainly must thank Colin Jilks for the sterling work that he does as Coordinator. I am sure it will be our mainstay towards continuing success.

Lastly, may I take this opportunity of wishing you a very Happy New Year, and look forward to seeing you all at our meetings during the course of 2002.

P.S. Pierre Pincemaille’s recital at Notre Dame de France on Thursday 13th December 2001, London was superb. Would anyone like a future trip to Paris or Brussels? Well, a dream could become reality. We shall see.


A magnificent tea - £3.00

From January 2002 our charge for tea at meetings will be £3.00. This does include donations to the churches we visit, where we are remarkably well received and with teas that are exceedingly good.

Click to return to Contents page