The experience post this month is written by Toby Wright. Here he tells us about his first organ recital, how he prepared for it and what how it went. Toby is 16 (when he played his recital he was 15) and has been playing the organ for about 2 years.
On Saturday 22nd February 2020 I did my first organ recital for an evening of music with unaccompanied four part male voice choir The Sarsen Songmen.
I’ve been playing the organ for just over 2 years and I am very lucky to have played over 150 organs in churches, chapels and cathedrals across the UK. I am a member of of many Organist’ Associations and what fascinates my about the instrument is the fact that there is such a huge variety of organs from the modest 2 manual village instruments up to the grand 4 and 5 manual organs of the great cathedrals and university chapels. So when I first visited the beautiful grade II* listed village church of Saint Mary in Collingbourne Kingston in Wiltshire on the edge of Salisbury Plain in 2019, I expected to find the usual modest and appropriately sized village instrument of which I have played so many. How wrong could I be?
Upon entering the church I immediately saw, at the west end of the nave, the magnificent 2 manual and pedal, 20 stop, Peter Conacher of Huddersfield pipe organ of 1,210 pipes. It stood proudly and prominently and I couldn’t wait to put it through its paces! One thing which is I think is quite uncommon as well as very interesting for audiences about the organ in Collingbourne Kingston is that everyone who is sat in the nave of the church can see everything the organist is doing. They have a bird’s eye view of the stops and pedalling so there is no hiding!
A lady from across the road had very kindly unlocked the organ for me so I got on the organ bench (or in the cockpit!) and began to play. Whilst I was playing, my Father was talking to the lady and arranged for me to play in the Christmas Tree Festival Concert in December of 2019. I played 3 verses of O Come all ye Faithful and my own improvisation on ‘Widor’s Toccata’. Once I had finished playing, she said the audience gave the first instant standing ovation they’ve ever had in doing the concert! She then very invited me to come back and do an organ recital to raise money for the church and maintenance of the organ so I was looking forward to making the most of the marvellous opportunity.
After hours of careful practice and preparation, I decided on my final programme which was designed to show the versatility and full potential of the organ in St. Mary’s. This was the my programme:
Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals Sigfrid Karg-Elert
Toccata in D Minor Johann Sebastian Bach
Improvisation On ‘Elizabethan Serenade’ Ronald Binge/Toby Wright
Pirates of the Caribbean Medley Klaus Badelt/Hanz Zimmer
Land of Hope and Glory Edward Elgar
In the Hall of the Mountain King Edvard Grieg
Festive Trumpet Tune David German
Improvisation on ‘Widor’s Toccata’ Charles Marie-Widor/Toby Wright
I had tremendous fun choosing the pieces, practicing them and arranging and improvising pieces to show the musical capabilities of the fine organ and excellent acoustics in St. Mary’s. For example, ‘Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals’ and Improvisation on ‘Widor’s Toccata’ demonstrated the mighty full organ sound and wonderful pedal Trumpet which shakes the floor! ‘Toccata in D Minor’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ showed the strong and bold principal choruses of the organ and ‘Improvisation on ‘Elizabethan Serenade’ and ‘In the Hall of the Mountain King’ presented the gentle Swell strings, the lovely and lively flutes, building up through the choruses to full organ and then to the almost inaudible Swell strings with the box completely closed to finish. This was also extremely effective at showing the audience the broad dynamic range of the 1,210 pipes within the organ because they can hear a commanding roar at one minute and a quiet whisper the next.
Overall, I really enjoyed playing in the concert. The church was almost full with an supportive audience of nearly 100 people and over £400 was raised from the evening.
To watch a snippet of the first piece, Praise the Lord with Drums and Cymbals, check out my Twitter page or to watch me playing various other organs look at my social media pages:
If you have taken part in an event and would like to share your experience with others, drop The Organ Manual a line, we’d love to hear from you!