Organ Recital Reviews

Photo credit: Richard Neville-Carlé

Christopher Herrick’s Organ Recital: October 12th 2019
If there were doubts about the suitability, let alone the cost, of having a new organ at St. Michael’s, they would surely have been dispelled by international concert organist Christopher Herrick’s magnificent recital on Saturday 12th October

In a wide ranging programme, with music from the 18th to the 21st centuries, Christopher thrilled the large audience of over 80 people.

The Grand Offertoire by Edouard Baptiste (1820-76), showed off the organ to great effect with its grandiose opening and closing, a quieter Bel Canto section, and lively operatic type interludes.
This in stark contrast to the third of Variations on Amazing Grace, by Ian Farrington (b.1977). with its gospel/jazz influences, and followed by Bonnet’s Matin Provençal – an entirely secular piece in spite of the composer being a church organist.

Edwin Lemare’s Concert Fantasia took three well known English melodies: The Sailors Hornpipe; the British Grenadiers; and Rule Britannia, combined together, with Auld Lang Syne ff on the pedals at the end. A remarkable tour de force.

Then, as if to show that Germany also could produce organ composers (!) Beethoven and Bach formed the middle part of the programme, the former by a masterpiece of his middle period the F major Andante and the latter by one of his most difficult Preludes and Fugues – the D major BWV 532.

Finally, three triple forte chords from Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mitsensk shook the foundations of the church with the full might of Kenneth Tickell’s 2014 organ. Then, with still more virtuoso playing, Pietro Yon’s Concert Study “Flying Feet” when Christopher’s feet really did fly (!) brought the official ending of this entertaining recital to a close. However, the audience demanded more, so Herrick played the “The Power of Life” by the Norwegian Mons Takle – a piece which had been specially written for him, and which held no quarter to the Yon piece that had preceded

Christopher Slater


D’Arcy Trinkwon Organ Concert – Saturday 24th June 2017 4pm
photo 1-2Well it was certainly well ‘worth’ it! If you couldn’t be at Worthy Farm for Glastonbury then the organist of Worth Abbey and Sussex University came to St Michael’s Betchworth at 4pm on Saturday 24th June for a fabulous recital.
After the heatwave we needed some refreshment and D’Arcy Trinkwon certainly gave it to us in the form of virtuosic organ playing.

Appearing in his flowing silver shirt like Merlin he introduced the first group of three pieces beginning with Bach’s first cousin –Johann Walter Gottfried displaying the wonderful range of the Tickell Organ in Concerto del Sigr. Meck. Fast right hand semiquavers and masterly modulations preceded JS Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G (BWV451) From the back of the church, with the use of a large TV Screen, we could watch the fast movement of his feet across the pedals and hear the sound in the lovely clear acoustic of St Michael’s church Betchworth. With clarity and the non-wavering driving tempo of the fugue D’Arcy worked his whole body into the music while turning pages and all his limbs flat out as if he was operating a lathe or weaving loom with crescendos cascading around St Michaels. The clarity of the organ stops and the big chords and delicate decorative melodies thrilled the audience.

Voluntary Op 5 No1 in C by John Stanley was the third piece which had divided registration across keyboard and pedals. Diapasons for the Adagio and powerful Trumpet stops for the Andante with echoes on upper keyboard and bass tune on the foot pedals. The Slow (swell) was a relaxing, peaceful movement leading to a fast moving Allegro (ecchos) with scalic passages and pure flute sounding stop. Alternating with big chordal passages –Bach-like it came to a pause then louder on the lower keyboard.

Next, D’Arcy told us how Mozart played many organs in Europe “for money” and even one in a wax museum with an effigy in a coffin – which lit up at the end. The ‘Magnificent’ Fantasia in F Minor K594 A slower, more serious, solemn start reminiscent of Mozart’s later Requiem.
A fast Chromatic 2nd movement major scales and arpeggios and chordal. Into a minor key with more pedal and masterful playing then big ‘Phantom-;like” chords reverberating around the church.

Vierne’s-presto chromatic scales and descending chords at a cracking almost unbelievable pace showing off his full virtuosity. With 1 intruding pedal note in between chromatic moving chords-so fast and with a sudden ending.
There was a UK Premiere of a piece called Young Sprite – “another great score arriving in the post” from M.L. TAKLE. It had hints of Keith Emerson’s Rock playing chords with a nodding tempo ending rather ‘Trump-like’.

The gentle, beautifully tuneful, “Lied to the flowers” from Belgian, Flor Peters (1903-1986) – a great recitalist of the 20th century – a haunting French pastoral piece with superimposed vibrating 3rds ending.

The Magician of the Moment, D’Arcy, took the ‘rather splendid’ “Lied to the Sun” (once championed by the flamboyant Virgil Fox who packed out venues in America) at a rocketing pace, changing colours and tones with a phasing effect across the instrument and producing shouts of “more” while Rector Carol commented that she saw all the stops   come out at once. D’Arcy said there was one we hadn’t heard and he proceeded to demonstrate ‘the bells’ stop.
What a wonderful concert it had been. As one of the audience reminded me – there are so few churches with good real organs now-it is a joy to hear.
If you want to hear more look at his website:
Martin Coslett

Margaret Phillips Organ Recital – May 21st 2016

Photo credit: Richard Neville-Carlé

If ever justification was needed for the purchase of a new pipe organ in a country church, it was surely in this recital given by the international concert organist Margaret Phillips.

A packed church witnessed a concert of the highest class by a musician of the highest class, who plays in cathedrals and concert halls the world over and shortly can be heard in London’s Royal Festival Hall.

The programme was carefully chosen to demonstrate music from the Baroque to the modern, including some full blooded 19th century pieces. That great master of the organ, both as a player and composer, J. S. Bach, was represented by the first of the Leipzig Chorale Preludes – the Fantasia on “Komm, Heiliger Geist” – where the chorale tune is heard played on the pedals against figurations on the manuals, clearly signifying the rushing wind of the Holy Ghost. The same Chorale was also heard in the setting by Bach’s contemporary Dietrich Buxtehude whose reputation was such that the younger man walked some 200 miles to Lübeck to hear him play!

The Kenneth Tickell organ of 2014 is fully equipped to play this period of music just as well as the more light-hearted dances by composers born in the 20th century, one of which, by Lionel Rogg (b.1936), calls for the utmost virtuosity in the pedal department, as does the 19th century Saint-Saëns’ Fantaisie in Db. This last also demonstrated some of the full range of colours that this organ possesses, which were beautifully realised by Margaret.

The programme had begun with W.T. Best’s arrangement of Handel’s Occasional Overture, and this, together with Guilmant’s March on a Theme by Handel heard earlier, linked up the 18th with the 19th century, while the concert concluded with Joseph Bonnet’s Concert Study from his Douze Pièces Op.7 (1910).

The enthusiastic and long applause prompted an encore from Margaret in the form of a charming piece called “Shalom” by the little known 21st century Dutch composer, Toon Hagen, that seemed to incorporate the song “Peace be with you” in its flow of notes, making a fitting end to this magnificent recital.

Christopher Slater