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The organ re-launch

A large, appreciative audience attended the inaugural recital on 14 July 2013 to hear Simon Johnson, organist at St Paul's Cathedral, in a varied programme of classics and lesser known works, even including one piece played using the organ's  original, unique hydraulics system (water power), which was shut down abruptly in the 1930s and has now also been lovingly restored. Simon is one of the foremost organists of his generation and we were fortunate to have such a talented and knowledgeable organist playing and talking about our organ and the works he chose to showcase it. Taking to heart the idea "And now for something completely different...", the concert on the 16th was an enormous contrast: we had four artistes and groups based in Sweden and Iceland performing over a scintillating evening of indie pop, classical, electronic and rock music, all featuring the organ in ways many people would never expect! The next evening saw a screening of Carl Dreyer's 1928 silent masterpiece The Passion of Joan of Arc, with a new score composed for organ (James McVinnie), soprano (Emma Nash) and electronics (Irene Buckley).  In the glorious setting of the Chapel, the haunting live music accompanying the harrowing scenes of Joan's trial and death left an indelible impression on everyone: as one reviewer commented, it was "pure cinema magic". The very next night, Thursday 17th, we welcomed distinguished organist Roger B Williams playing new music for the organ. His concert was a real tour de force. It included works by a number of contemporary British composers and even featured three London premieres, concluding with a virtuoso performance of Ligeti's spellbinding Volumina.

The climax to the whole week was the gala concert for organ and strings on Saturday 20th July, with the Paradisal Players orchestra conducted by Samuel Burstin, featuring the organist Christian Wilson. The audience was treated to some virtuosic playing, particularly in Poulenc's Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings and the famous Adagio for Organ and Strings by Albinoni/Giazotto. A highlight was the world premiere of the official organ launch commission, Fragments of Light, composed by our music director Claire for organ and strings: it was rapturously received and we hope to host another performance soon. All in all, it was a fascinating, busy, exhilarating, educational, illuminating, stunning, exciting week - and Claire and Janet are planning even more events for 2013-14!

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