Friday 6 December lunchtime concert was the first time Phillip Bricher gave an organ recital at SMSG, his programme was seasonal for Advent and Christmas. The programme featured music from several composers, 3 of whom died in 2019 after long, important careers as organist composers, starting with one of them - Noel Rawsthorne.
Philip made a cheerful start with a march ‘on Ilkely moor’ from Noel Rawsthorne’s Dance suite.
This was followed by the first of 2 pieces featured in the programme by Jean Langlais: Angels we have heard on high (some know this as Angels from the Realms of Glory). The piece used a lovely combination of loud and quiet explorations of the main theme throughout.
The next piece was by another organist composer who died this year - A French Carol by Peter Hurford, a short piece which made beautiful use of the flutes in the organ.
Noel Rawsthorne’s interpretation of The Angel Gabriel showed off the gentle elements of the Willis organ sound and made lovely use of the softer reeds.
A Prelude on ‘Picardy’ (let all mortal flesh keep silence) by John Joubert, the third of 3 organist composers who died in 2019, followed, another piece with contemplative air on the quieter stops of the organ, though it has a change of mood and tempo part of the way through, gradually leading to louder more brooding sounds which merged into a serious finale on the soft reeds.
The Shepherds’ Farewell by Hector Berlioz ranged over all three manuals of the organ to pick out different sounds.
Noel Rawsthorne’s Hymn Prelude on Veni Emmanuel made good use of the Great for the solo line with the quiet accompaniment played on the Swell at the beginning before making full use of the Great for the latter part of the piece.
Max Reger’s Short Chorale from Opus 135a was played on the Great.
This was followed by the second Jean Langlais piece: Noel Breton which alternated between the Swell and Great for contrast, showing off the different tones of stop combinations beautifully.
The final Noel Rawsthorne piece was a Carol Prelude of In the Bleak Midwinter which started on the quiet Swell stops, gently making use of the Swell pedal before transferring to the Choir organ then later back to the Swell for some lovely chords which made the tune float in the air.
Phillip’s final piece was by James Vivian - a joyful rendition of In Dulci Jubilo: Partita, played on the Great organ for the first verse, before playing Choir and for the solo line with a running accompaniment on the lower octaves of the Great, then the third verse was all twinkly notes on the Great, making it sound like a cymbalstern (bells). The fourth verse was much grander louder stops on the Great, showing the wonderful versatility of sounds and tones which the Willis organ offers the player.
Words and photos by Anna Page