A musican's life of travel meant that Jonathan had a 3 hour drive from Norfolk on Friday morning during which he finalised his programme for the lunchtime concert.
He gave the concert a grand start with Processional in C Major by David N Johnson (an American composer). The connection between the first 2 pieces in the concert was the composers both wrote music which covered all 12 of the chromatic series, both white and black keys, to show that a keyboard instrument was not constrained by some of the pitch limitations of other instruments. The second piece was seasonal - Ascension day chorale prelude. Bach's choral preludes were all based upon well known hymn tunes of the day, so Jonathan played one verse of that hymn which is less well known now before playing the choral prelude. Bach used the tunes and harmonies from Martin Luther and spun his own ideas in too. This was as Germanic as the Willis could sound.
Next was a trip to Italy for Albinoni's Adagio in G minor - Jonathan explained that originally the organ was used in a supporting and sustaining part as solo instead of harpsichord with a chamber string ensemble. The organist was boss! (no conductor) and it would have been a chamber organ, not a large 19th and 20th century 3 manual pipe organ, as they didn't have the technology to do more at the time.
To France and Francois Couperin, church music to cover the action in the mass: between Benedictus and Agnus Dei is the Offertory, this one was Offertory for the ‘Grands Jeux’. It was not based on any hymn tunes but for enjoyment and reflection, building to the focal point of holy communion. On the Willis, it started with the cornet sound in the choir (the new stops), and sounds of contrast and excitement with some fast finger work in both hands on great and choir sections.
To the UK - Jonathan is a great fan of Walton’s music and chose the next piece for the 75th anniversary of D-Day - the Spitfire Prelude by William Walton. It was colourful, full of life and twists of harmony.
Next was to Belgium - Joseph Jongen was a professor of music at several European conservatoires so he wrote several difficult test pieces, though he also wrote the Petit Prelude (a charming small piece), which is harder to play than it sounds and has some beautiful melodies and 20th century harmonies to challenge the audience.
The final piece was a return to Germany with Mendelssohn's The War March of the Priests, originally for full orchestra, but transcribed for pipe organ - it goes well on the Willis because the instrument was designed to imitate the orchestra.
All the StonyLive concerts in the church this week are raising funds towards the Disabled access fund. Jonathan explained that part of that project includes the gallery extension plan which will enable the the console to move into a better audio position for the organist. The soup and roll lunch along with donations raised £170.65 towards this aim.
Thank you Jonathan for a wonderful lunchtime of organ music.
Words and photos by Anna Page