The warm mid-June Monday evening past, about 120 of us heard the technical brilliance, musicality and sheer joy of David Briggs (www.david-briggs.org) in his spectacular Inaugural Recital on our new Organ. I think every pipe, pedal, key and stop was played, individually and all together!
Starting with a Fanfare by Graham Keitch, the Bach Prelude & Fugue showed the new Organ’s clarity in the classical repertoire, while the delicate Haydn pieces for musical clock showed its gentler colours. Briggs’ own variations on Greensleeves illustrated a different palette again, while the familiar Cocker Tuba Tune did what it said and the MacDowell Sea Pieces touched the romantic notes.
The words of Star Trek’s Chief Engineer Scotty, “She cannae take any more, Captain!”, came to my mind as David Briggs reached the climax of his transcription of Dukas’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” (made famous by Disney’s Fantasia) to end the first half of his tremendous Opening Recital. Thankfully it could, and after the interval David returned to talk about his training in France in the art of improvisation. In response to ideas from the audience, he created an Organ Symphony from “I got rhythm”, “We’ll meet again” and “Westminster Chimes”. Bach’s Air on a G string provided a calming encore to conclude a wonderful evening celebrating what can now properly be called the St Michael’s Organ.
Many thanks to Tim Trenchard, our organ builder, for a year-long labour of love cleaning, renewing, reconfiguring, installing, voicing and tuning, to Nigel Browne for overseeing the project, to Neil Page for arranging such a fitting opening Recital, and to all who have encouraged and supported us in this task. David spoke movingly about the history of this organ in Birmingham, much of it played over 5 decades by his grandfather, and his pleasure at seeing it rebuilt in our beautiful church to be used in liturgy, recitals, concerts and teaching. Our HLF guest, Evelyn Stacey, was impressed with what we have achieved.
Please now support:-
Sunday 22nd June, Music Sunday, 10.45am Mass. Setting: Little Organ Mass. Motet: Insanae et Vanae Curae. (Unhealthy and vain cares invade our minds; What profit, O Mortal, in worldly things, if you neglect the heavens? But all things are favourable to you, if God is for you.) Both by Franz Joseph Haydn.
Sunday 22nd June, 6pm Evensong & Dedication of the new Organ. With Bishop Richard Hawkins – special order of service, preceded by a 20 minute mini Organ recital. Much of the choir’s music will feature bold organ accompaniments in Balfour-Gardner’s Evening Hymn and a Stanfordfest of Psalm 150 and the Canticles in C. We are grateful to Heritage Lottery Fund, Viridor Credits and our many generous donors.
Wednesday 25th June, 7.30pm Heritage Lecture. Paul Morgan (Exeter Cathedral Organist Emeritus) on the Life and Achievements of Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Hear about the eccentric SSWesley, who was Organist of Exeter Cathedral in the 1830s and, as well as composing well-known hymns and anthems, set about improving the musical life of the CofE. He is buried just below the Catacombs in the cemetery across the valley from St Michael’s.
Friday 27th June, 7.30pm Requiem Mass. In memory of the 150th Anniversary of the death of John Dinham, Exeter Tea Merchant, Philanthropist and Founder of the Mount Dinham development. Weather permitting, after the service, Richard Parker & I hope to lead a procession to the tomb of John Dinham, and his wife Susannah, in the cemetery above Exe Street.
Please remember also to support a new generation of organists at our Young Organists’ Competition on Monday14th July at 7.30pm. We have 9 applicants who will each play a short selection of pieces to our panel of three judges; Devon organists Jonathan Watts, Andrew Daldorph and Neil Page. Prizes include the opportunity to perform in Exeter Cathedral, in our St Michael’s Recital series, and lessons with Cathedral organists Andrew Millington and David Davies. We thank Exeter School, Exeter Festival Chorus and Budleigh Music Festival for sponsorship.