Francis Monkman gave us a wonderful Friday lunchtime organ concert on 2 August featuring various Bach family composers and Buxtehude. He introduced the concert with a short overview of the Bach family and referred to a book about them - music flourished in their family as they sought contact with the divine through music. The concert featured not only a piece by J.S.Bach but also music by J.C.Bach, J.M.Bach and J.B.Bach.
The Willis organ had a lot of J.S.Bach played on it when in St George’s Edinburgh even though its specification and tone is was designed for Romantic and Classical music rather than Baroque. Francis was able to show just how good Baroque music sounds on the Willis.
- Fantasia super 'Komm, Heiliger Geist', BWV 651 - Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
- Praeludium & Fuga in Eb - Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)
- "Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr"- Johann Christoph Bach (1642-1703)
- "Mag ich Ungluck nicht widerstahn" - Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694)
- "In dulci jubilo" - Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694)
- "Auf meinen lieben Gott" oder "Wo soll ich fliehen hin" - Johann Michael Bach (1648-1694)
(roughly translated as "Oh my dear God" or "Where should I escape")
- "Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her" - Johann Bernard Bach (1676-1749)
- Praeludium in G minor (BuxWV 149) - Dieterich Buxtehude (c. 1637-1707)
"Allein Gott..." roughly translated as "God alone in the highlands" had a grandeur reflecting God and the mountains and made good use of the Swell reeds.
"Mag ich..." roughly translated as "I do not like to resist misfortune" was lighter in tone.
"In dulci jubilo" had a sustained bass note with the melody and counter melody running through it, giving the joyful tune a serious undertone, perhaps a nod towards the destiny of the holy child.
"Vom Himmel..." (from the sky up there I come) was a cheerful melodious tune on the Great organ with pedal, with occasional counter melody on the Choir.
The Buxtehude was steady and grand, with a faster second movement on the Choir and some faster pedal work. The third movement was like an announcement of more serious slower music on the Great. Despite being a prelude the piece provided a solid finish to a fascinating exploration of the Baroque organ music era.
Francis Monkman studied at the RAM in London and went on to co-found the 'classic-rock' groups Curved Aire and later the hugely-successful SKY. In 1990 he bought a 2-manual Viscount organ in order to revisit J.S. Bach's opus, and since 2004 has travelled to Thuringia (the Bach homeland) frequently to play historic instruments. He has enjoyed playing the Willis organ in Stony Stratford in the past few months on Monday mornings (when the organ is available for amateur and professional organists to practice upon).
Words and photos by Anna Page