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Rêveries & Revels
Malcolm Riley plays the Compton organ at St Bride’s Church, Fleet Street, London. Compact Disc: Price £10.00 (+ £1.50 p&p) now available!
All About the CD
RÊVERIES and Revels is a personal anthology, juxtaposing pieces in a light-hearted vein with others in a more refl ective mood. Two longer-limbed movements (Walker’s Legend and Wesley’s Andante in F) allow the listener to enjoy the tonal luxuries of this magnifi cent Compton organ.
Bernard Walker (1901-99), a native of Malvern (where his father was Elgar’s bank manager) trained as an artist in Liverpool before becoming a schoolteacher, first in Redcar and then - from 1928-66 - at Bournemouth School. In 1931 he encountered Percy Whitlock, not long appointed as Director of Music at St Stephen’s Church, and a strong friendship quickly developed. In 1932 Whitlock dedicated the Fanfare from his Four Extemporisations for organ to Walker. Later, in 1937, Walker reciprocated with his Legend. Originally entitled Wareham Walls it was inspired by the Roman ramparts which surround this ancient Purbeckian settlement. The two martial episodes strike this writer as a musical representation of centurions on patrol. Intermezzo dates from 1954 and in its closing bars reveals a hint of Delius and Moeran. The choraleprelude
Mariner’s Fancy (subtitled ‘A Maggot for the Organ’) deftly combines the traditional sailor’s hornpipe with John Bachus Dykes’ hymn tune Melita (“For those in peril on the sea”). It is dedicated to Nick McCabe, a colleague at Bournemouth School.
Cortège Académique was Sir Ernest MacMillan’s only published organ piece (Novello, 1957). It was dedicated to University College, Toronto, ‘on the occasion of its Hundredth Anniversary in 1953’. As an examiner and festival adjudicator MacMillan directly encouraged and stimulated more than a generation of Canadian musicians.
Capriccio was written for my wedding to Melanie Hendey in August 1985 and first heard as we walked down the isle, played by Adrian Self on the organ of Cuckfield Parish Church. We were delighted to receive Adrian’s wedding present – a pair of organ pieces Rileys’ Rêveries and Rileys’ Revels - the former hovering celestially in the orbit of Finzi and Howells, and the latter reminiscent of Whitlock in his bounciest scherzando mood. The Intermezzo was composed in 1993 for my brother James’s marriage to Kate Gaskins. The March Pavilioned in Splendour is dedicated to my old friend Robert Gower, its high spirits inspired by the Compton organ in the Bournemouth Pavilion. I first came across Wesley’s Andante in F in 1976 when James Lancelot played it in a BBC broadcast from Winchester Cathedral to commemorate the centenary of Wesley’s death. I was immediately struck by its sweeping phrases, its rhapsodic organic ebb and flow and Wesley’s dashes of harmonic audacity.
Ernest Farrar (best known as Gerald Finzi’s first composition teacher in Harrogate during the First World War) was RCM-trained and a favourite pupil of Stanford. He was killed on 18 September 1918 leading his men in the Battle of Epéhy- Ronssoy, near St Quentin, in France. His superbly – crafted output encompassed some chamber music, songs (Brittanybeing the most celebrated), piano music, choral and orchestral works and a goodly number of organ pieces, most of them published posthumously.
Wedding Piece (Op 18) starts quite innocently, ambling along alla Alfred Hollins before becoming something much stronger and more intense; chromatic shades, perhaps, of Karg- Elert or Reger? It was dedicated to Frank Pullein, organist of Wrexham Parish Church, and brother of John Pullein, organist of St Peter’s, Harrogate, the daughter church of Farrar’s own Christ Church. John Pullein (later organist of Glasgow Cathedral) was the dedicatee of Farrar’s Op 7 Chorale-Preludes. The gloomy melody of ‘St Bride’ emerges on an 8ft Pedal stop. The Elegy and Epilogue on The old 100th reveal Farrar’s orchestral approach to the organ, the former brooding darkly in Eb major, the latter ebullient with plenty of splash from the Solo Tuba.
After his death Farrar’s family established a composition prize in his memory at the Royal College of Music. In 1923 the recipient was Percy Whitlock, an organ pupil of Henry G Ley and a composition student of Ralph Vaughan Williams. Whitlock’s To Phoebe was composed in Rochester in 1928 as a piece for organ and strings (and later recast for a medium-sized orchestra). In 1930 Whitlock moved to Bournemouth to be Director of Music at St Stephen’s Church. Two years later he was appointed part-time Municipal Organist, working closely with the town’s celebrated Municipal Orchestra and its founding-father, Sir Dan Godfrey. The March Dignity and Impudence (1932-3) was first played by the orchestra in 1933, taking its title from Sir Edwin Landseer’s famous painting of two dogs. With regard to the ‘Trio’ tune Whitlock makes a gentle joke at the expense of Elgar’s Pomp and Circumstance March No 4. In 1940 Whitlock re-used the opening of the march to kick off a Fanfare written for Bournemouth Home Guard Band and its conductor Montague Birch. Mr Downes’ Dream was originally composed for the harpsichord in the mid 1930s (Whitlock and his wife owned a Tuscan 17th century instrument, restored by Alec Hodsdon). The English organist Ralph Downes (1904-93) was a contemporary of the Whitlocks at the RCM in the early ‘20s.
Malcolm grew up in Harrogate where he was a chorister (and later sub-organist) at St Peter’s Church. From 1978-81 he held an organ scholarship at Christ’s College, Cambridge, where he read Music and studied the organ with Dr Arthur Wills and Charles Spinks. Since 1985 he has been Director of Music at Cranbrook School in Kent. He also conducts Cranbrook and
District Choral Society and Sinfonia.
His biographical study of Percy Whitlock (Sessions, 2003) received critical acclaim and he regularly writes reviews for The Gramophone.
Reviews of Rêveries & Revels
"Malcolm Riley's fine performances encompass a rewarding collection of
tuneful pieces with delicious harmonies. ...The two major works by Wesley
and Bernard Walker repay repeated listenings. ...Full markes to Riley for
his ... imaginative choice of such pleasing British organ music."
Gramaphone March 2006 P65
An Exchange of Letters
“I am overwhelmingly in favour of an Electrone – I was most impressed by the Festival Hall instrument”.
So wrote the Revd Cyril Armitage, Rector of St Bride’s, to J I Taylor, Managing Director of the John Compton Organ Company, in 1955. Occupying a site on which Christians have worshipped for over 1800 years, the seventh church of St Bride, designed by Christopher Wren, had been reduced to a shell during the Blitz of 1940. Its famous “wedding cake“ steeple had however survived, and must have acted as a source of inspiration to those who sought to rebuild it in the 1950s.
The rebuilt Church was dedicated in 1957, in the presence of Her Majesty the Queen, its restoration having largely been funded by the newspaper industry, at that time still firmly established in Fleet Street; indeed the Church has often been referred to as the “Printers’ Cathedral” and still maintains a close link with the Press, and the media generally, tothis day.
But what of the organ?
We have every reason to be grateful that Mr Armitage did not get his wish – a Compton Electrone was an early type of electronic organ, very good for its time, perhaps, but worlds apart from the magnificent instrument whose sounds are on this CD! Viscount Astor of Hever was the man who made it all possible, for without his generosity, Mr Taylor and the Compton company would not have been able to exercise their tremendous talents, in building what is arguably their finest new built city church instrument. Almost invisible, the organ, with its five manual divisions and some 4000 pipes, was fitted into existing spaces, which became available when the church was rebuilt after the bombing. It may be true that Comptons were past masters at housing a pipe organ where others would not dare, but, to quote Gordon Reynolds, “the final result here left no one in doubt that they were also organ builders in the front rank.”
It was an enormous tragedy that just months after its inauguration, the organ’s creator, J I Taylor, died suddenly. Invested as a Guildsman of St Bride’s for the church’s Rededication in November 1957, he had been acting as Honorary Assistant Organist to Gordon Reynolds. Only a few years later, lacking the direction and drive provided by Mr Taylor, the John Compton Organ Company effectively went out of business.
However, during the intervening years, St Bride’s organ has carried on doing what it was built to do – accompanying the Choral tradition of Anglican worship and adding to the atmosphere which that tradition inspires. Coupled with an outstanding and versatile choir, it has played a full part in maintaining St Bride’s reputation for the best in Anglican music.
This CD is the first to feature the organ as a solo instrument. Malcolm Riley fell in love with it when he played at an Organ Club meeting in 2003. He has been planning this recording for some time and was keen to include music by that other great Compton champion, Percy Whitlock, who presided over the Compton in the Pavilion, Bournemouth. Keith Bance (who tunes and maintains the organ) and I feel sure that Percy himself would have approved of, and hugely enjoyed, the Compton Sound at St Bride’s, an instrument we consider to be the firm’s magnum opus.
Guildsman of St Bride’s
Thanks and Copyright
Special thanks are due to:
Canon David Meara (Rector of St Bride’s), Robert Jones (Director of Music, St Bride’s), Keith Bance, Alec Hithersay, Claire Seaton, Adrian Self, David Smith and Judy Walker. 2005
The copyright in this recording is owned by Clarity Sound Productions. Any unauthorized broadcasting, public performance, copying or re-recording of Clarity Sound Productions recordings constitutes an infringement of copyright and will render the infringer liable to an action by law. Licences for public performances or broadcasting may be obtained from Phonographic Performance Ltd, 1 Upper James Street, London W1R 3HG, England. 2005
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