Monday, 14 June 2010

Organ harvest


'Organ In Sanity & Madness' is an LP I picked up about a year ago in Rotherham. I was on the famous Very Good Plus Charity Challenge at the time, and I paid 50p for it.

It's a fascinating document of an evening of organ music recorded at the Albert Hall on September 24th, 1966. The whole event was in aid of the Royal College Of Organist's Centenary Appeal and features a varied programme of etude symphonies, tone poems, concertos from the repertoire and musique concrete pieces commissioned and composed specifically for the concert.

'L'orgue Concrete' was written by Alan Ridout, and features James Blades on percussion and Allan Wicks on organ in a musical battle for supremacy, punctuated by a boxing bell. To further 'punch home' the joke, the musicians traded in their black ties and formal wear for dressing gowns and boxing shorts, which seems to have tickled the audience somewhat.

'The Storm' was composed by Nicholas Jacques Lemmens in 1866. This is an edited version featuring the most dramatic passage, accompanied on the night by flashing lights and full sound effects and featuring Allan Wicks playing the Albert Hall's very own 9,999 pipe organ.

'Mini-concerto' by John McCabe takes audience participation to the next level, issuing them with 484 penny whistles and instructions when to join in. James Blades is making noises again, and a young Gillian Weir plays the organ. It's an interesting piece, rather menacing and sinister, yet quite jolly when punctuated by the noises people make when they're enjoying themselves.

Not a particularly favourite album (ironically, there's just far too much flipping organ on it) but the event sounds like it was a lot of fun and seems redolent of a more culturally diverse past where classical music had Happenings and 500 people went to the Albert Hall on a Saturday night to blow a recorder.

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