The articles below are taken from my monthly columns in St Edmund's Church parish magazine ("The King"), which includes full details of my organ voluntaries for that month.


The recent Flower Festival at St Edmund's was a great success and I was pleased to see a good turnout for my "Flower Hour" organ recital. In the programme I featured a number of floral-inspired pieces.

In the recital, I also featured music by Rachmaninov (Vocalise), Nevin (Narcissus), Faure (Pavane), Elgar (Chanson de Matin & Salut d'Amour), Cosma (Promenade Sentimentale), Mendelssohn (Violin Concerto second movement) & Paradis (Sicilienne). I recorded the recital and a CD is available in exchange for a donation towards church fund.

Aug 22nd
Prelude - The Londonderry Air - Trad arr H.Geehl
Postlude - Alla Marcia - H.Coleman

Aug 29th
Prelude - Prelude - A.Scriabin
Postlude - Songs of Praise - R.Prizeman


2010 is the bicentenary of the birth of Robert Schumann. He did not actually write any works specifically for the organ but wrote three pieces for pedal piano which work extremely well for the organ. This instrument, which reached the height of its brief popularity during the nineteenth century, is a piano with organ-type pedals attached. Schumann rented one in 1845, ostensibly to study organ playing, and all his works for this instrument date from this year. His Six Canonic Studies and Six Fugues are a tribute to the contrapuntal writing of J. S. Bach, whose music Schumann was studying at the time. His Four Sketches share the same opening rhythmic and melodic shape, notably the interval of a rising fourth (Sketch No 2 in C Major). His Six Fugues on the name B-A-C-H all start with the same four notes (Fugue No 1 on BACH). The musical cryptogram B-A-C-H (in German nomenclature, B is actually B flat while H is B natural) was first used by the master himself, most notably in his monumental "Art of Fugue". Other composers to use this motif B flat-A natural-C natural-B natural include Liszt, Rimsky-Korsakov and Schoenberg.

My other voluntaries this month are taken from Handel's "Water Music". This is a collection of three orchestral suites written for a royal concert on the River Thames in the summer of 1717. It was performed by 50 musicians playing on a barge close to the royal barge. George I was said to have loved it so much that he ordered the exhausted musicians to play the suites three times on the trip.

July 4th
Prelude - Sketch No 1 - R. Schumann
Postlude - Hornpipe (Water Music) - G. F. Handel

July 11th
Prelude - Aria (Water Music) - G. F. Handel
Postlude - Sketch No 2 - R. Schumann

July 18th
Prelude - Air (Water Music) - G. F. Handel
Postlude - Sketch No 3 - R. Schumann

July 25th
Prelude - Sketch No 4 - R. Schumann
Postlude - Fugue No 1 on BACH - R. Schumann


Every Easter, Classic FM broadcast their Top 300 Hall of Fame as voted by their listeners. Two years ago I wrote about the organ works featured in that list and I thought it would be interesting to see how they have fared in the meantime.

This year, Widor's Toccata is in 50th place, up 16 places from two years ago. Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D Minoris in 46th place, down 13 places. The top-placed organ work - Camille Saint-Saens' Third "Organ" Symphony - is in 14th place, up 9 places from 2008. The Adagio for Organ and Strings by Tomaso Albinoni (pictured) is in 86th place, up 16 places. The work is based on a fragment of manuscript found in Dresden State Library. This surviving scrap of music consists of just the bass line and six bars of melody from the slow movement of a trio sonata. Remo Giazotto, a Milanese musicologist preparing a biography of Albinoni, liked it so much he reconstructed the piece ,in 1945. It is ironic that Albinoni's most popular composition would be barely recognisable by the composer. As Fritz Spiegl put it: The Adagio of Albinoni, is largely phoney, and is a musical risotto, cooked up by Giazotto.

Jun 6th
Prelude- Organ Symphony (Slow Movement) - C.Saint-Saens
Postlude - Trumpet Tune - H.Purcell

Jun 13th
Prelude- Adagio - T.Albinoni/R.Giazotto
Postlude - Prince of Denmark's March - J.Clarke

Jun 20th
Prelude- Berceuse - L.Vierne
Postlude - Trumpet Tune - J.Stanley

Jun 27th
Prelude- Arabesque - L.Vierne
Postlude - Prelude to a Te Deum - M-A.Charpentier


2010 is the 200th anniversary of the birth of the organist and composer Samuel Sebastian Wesley. Born August 14th 1810, the son of composer Samuel Wesley and the grandson of Methodist hymn writer Charles Wesley, Samuel Sebastian was partly named after the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach. He was a chorister at the Chapel Royal and later organist at the cathedrals of Hereford, Exeter, Winchester and Gloucester. As a composer most of his output was written for the Anglican Church. His two most famous anthems are arguably Thou Wilt Keep Him In Perfect Peace and Blessed Be The God And Father (performed at this month's Choral Evensong). Wash Me Throughly was performed at St Edmund’s on Passion Sunday and Lead Me Lord is also a perennial favourite at Northwood Hills.

Probably his best-known organ work is the Holsworthy Church Bells. This was written in 1865 while Samuel Sebastian was organist at nearby Exeter Cathedral and was first performed by him on the new organ in Holsworthy Church. During the month I shall also be playing the Air and Gavotte by Samuel Sebastian’s father, Samuel.

May 2nd
Prelude – Duetto – P.Whitlock
Postlude –Prelude in A Minor – J.S.Bach

May 9th
Prelude –Allegretto – P.Whitlock
Postlude –Prelude in F Minor – J.S.Bach

May 16th
Prelude –Adagio – C.Widor
Postlude –Fugue in E Flat (“St Anne”) – J.S.Bach

May 23rd
Prelude – Toccata in F Major – J.S.Bach
Postlude – Air and Gavotte – S.Wesley

May 30th
Prelude – Holsworthy Church Bells – S.S.Wesley
Postlude – Nun Danket – S.Karg-Elert


The Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, which I shall be playing before and after the Easter Day service, is not only Johann Sebastian Bach's (pictured above) single most famous work, it is one of the best known pieces in music, being one of the few classical works universally recognisable by the general public. However, the musical world is divided as to whether the great composer actually composed the piece and it is indeed like nothing else that he ever wrote. There is no score in Bach's own hand and the earliest source is by one of his pupils, Johann Ringk, a character of allegedly dubious reputation. Peter Williams, one of the best-known Bach musicologists, suggests that the work was originally written for a solo violin and in the higher key of A Minor. The texture is much more characteristic of string writing and there was also a precedent for Bach transcribing violin pieces for organ. Several transcriptions have been made for solo violin as well as for piano and orchestra. The latter, by conductor Leopold Stokowski, was used to great effect in the 1940 Walt Disney film “Fantasia”. It has also been extensively covered by pop musicians.

Apr 3rd
Postlude - Toccata - C.Widor

Apr 4th
Prelude – Toccata in D Minor – J.S.Bach
Postlude – Fugue in D Minor – J.S.Bach

Apr 11th
Prelude - Nun Sei Willkommen Jesus Lieber Herr - F.Peeters
Postlude - Prelude and Fugue in D Minor - D.Buxtehude

Apr 18th
Prelude - Salix - P.Whitlock
Postlude - Grand March (Aida) - G.Verdi

Apr 25th
Prelude - Après Un Rêve - G.Fauré
Postlude - Toccata - G.Mushel


On Saturday January 16th, as the rain was washing away the last of the January snow, I was making my way to St Edmund’s to welcome the Organ Club. By 10.30, over forty people had assembled and were welcomed by President David Wakefield and Father Phillip. I gave a short introduction to the organ – which appeared in last month’s magazine – before playing two contrasting French works to demonstrate the instrument.

Louis Vierne was born in Poitiers in 1870, virtually blind due to congenital cataracts. He studied at the Paris Conservatoire and in 1892 was appointed assistant to Charles Widor at St Sulpice. Eight years later he became organist at Notre Dame, a position he held until his death in 1937 in the middle of an organ recital. Legende is taken from his Twenty four Pieces in Free Style and dates from 1913. They were written for organ or harmonium and can be played with or without pedals. Henri Mulet studied with Widor before going on to become choirmaster at Sacre-Coeur in Paris. In 1937, he burnt most of his manuscripts and moved to Draguignan in Provence for the last thirty years of his life. There he lived in seclusion and served as cathedral organist for most of this time. His Carillon Sortie dates from around the same time as the Legende. I shall be performing both of these pieces on Mothering Sunday.

There was then an opportunity for members to perform while others listened, took photographs and caught up with friends. An hour later, the group left to visit three further churches in Pinner and Northwood. I have subsequently received a very nice letter of thanks from the president together with a donation for the church.

I shall be continuing the French theme at this month’s Classic Concert on Sunday March 7th which I am giving with flautist Michael Wood. The main work is Cesar Franck’s Sonata for flute (originally violin) and piano and I shall also be playing two organ solos – the Second Choral in B Minor also by Franck (pictured) and the Sortie in E Flat by Louis Lefebure-Wely.

Mar 7th
Prelude – Choral No 2 in B Minor – C.Franck
Postlude – Prelude in B Minor – J.S.Bach

Mar 14th
Prelude – Legende – L.Vierne
Postlude – Carillon Sortie – H.Mulet

Mar 21st
Prelude – Herlich Thut Mich Verlangen – J.Brahms
Postlude – O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß – J.S.Bach

Mar 28th
Postlude – Praise the Lord, O My Soul – S.Karg-Elert


Founded by organ builder Henry Willis III in 1926, The Organ Club exists to promote public awareness and appreciation of the art and science of the organ, its players and its music. The club arranges monthly visits to interesting instruments, and on January 16th they are due to visit St Edmund’s, as well as three other churches in Pinner and Northwood. I shall be performing a short programme, after which club members will have the opportunity to play the organ. I shall report back on the event next month. This is the introduction I shall be giving to them:

“The church of St Edmund the King was created as the Mission district of Pinner Green within the Parish of St John’s, Pinner, and the first service was held in the open air on September 1st 1935. The church building was completed three months later and this building, intended to be a temporary construction, is now the church hall with the Sanctuary becoming the Lady Chapel of the present church which contains the original 1935 altar. In 1952, St Edmund’s became a parish in its own right and Father Philip is the sixth vicar. The present building was begun in July 1963 and was consecrated by the Bishop of London on October 10th 1964.

This organ was originally built by Norman and Beard and installed in 1902 in St Dunstan's Church on Stepney High Street in the East end of London. There has been a church on this site for a thousand years and the bells are mentioned in the nursery rhyme “Oranges and Lemons” – “When will that be, say the bells of Stepney”. In 1970, the church felt it was unable to meet the cost of restoration of the organ and decided to remove the instrument. Organ lover Douglas Birkinshaw, who had been Chief Engineer of BBC Television and was responsible for the introduction of the world’s first television service at Alexandra Palace, took the organ from St Dunstan’s and rebuilt it in a large purpose-built barn at his retirement home in Horsham, West Sussex. When Birkinshaw died, he willed that the organ be donated to a church and it was passed to St Edmund’s in 1984. After a long and difficult period of remodelling and restoration by Mark Booth and Associates, it was finally dedicated on May 16th 1992 and the inaugural recital was given by Raymond Isaacson.

The three-manual organ has 37 speaking stops and is essentially French in style but with the specification and voicing to allow for the performance of the whole repertoire of English and Continental organ music, as well as to provide a magnificent accompaniment to the congregational and choral singing of the church. The east-side gallery contains the enclosed swell organ (including the choir clarinet) while the west-side gallery contains the great and choir organ.”

Feb 7th
Prelude – Sicilienne - M.Paradis
Postlude – Prelude & Fugue No. 5 - J.S.Bach

Feb 14th
Prelude – Ave Maria - F.Schubert
Postlude – Prelude & Fugue No. 6 – J.S.Bach

Feb 21st
Prelude – Death of Ase - E.Grieg
Postlude – Prelude & Fugue No. 7 – J.S.Bach

Feb 28th
Prelude – Solveig's Song - E.Greig
Postlude – Prelude & Fugue No. 8 – J.S.Bach


Happy New Year! 2010 sees significant birth or death anniversaries for a number of composers although maybe not quite so high profile as last year’s Purcell, Handel, Haydn and Mendelssohn anniversaries!

March 9th 2010 would have been the 100th birthday of American composer Samuel Barber. He was born in Pennsylvania and studied at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. His most famous work is without doubt the “Adagio for Strings” and is a good example of his lyrical style. It was written in 1936 and was originally part of his first string quartet. It was first performed for string orchestra in 1938 by the NBC Symphony Orchestra under Arturo Toscanini. The work was performed at the funerals of Princess Grace of Monaco and Albert Einstein and has also been used in several feature films such as “Platoon” and “The Elephant Man”. It was later transcribed by the composer as a choral setting of the “Agnus Dei” and I shall be playing a transcription for organ by William Strickland.

Barber wrote several original pieces for organ, including the Toccata Festiva for organ and orchestra. In 1960, the wealthy musical patron Mary Zimbalist, founder of the Curtis Institute of Music, funded a new Aeolian-Skinner pipe organ for the Academy of Music in Philadelphia which was at the time the largest moveable pipe organ in the world. She commissioned Barber to write a piece to inaugurate the new instrument. Toccata Festiva features a virtuosic cadenza using only the pedals, a feat which baffles even the most accomplished performers.

Jan 3rd
Prelude – Pastorale (“Christmas Concerto”) – A.Corelli
Postlude – Overture (“Messiah”) – G.F.Handel

Jan 10th
Prelude – Prelude on “Dix” – Malcolm Archer
Postlude – Prelude No. 1 – J.S.Bach

Jan 17th
Prelude – Prelude on “Stuttgart” – Flor Peeters
Postlude – Prelude No. 2 – J.S.Bach

Jan 24th
Prelude – Adagio for Strings – Samuel Barber
Postlude – Prelude No. 3 – J.S.Bach

Jan 31st
Prelude – Adagio (Symphony No 3) - C.Saint-Saens
Postlude - Prelude No. 4 – J.S.Bach


The word carol is derived from the old French word carole meaning a festive song or mediaeval dance. These were very popular during the middle ages and were often used as processional songs sung during festivals or to accompany religious plays. One such example is the Coventry Carol, written in the sixteenth century. This famous carol, telling the story of Herod’s massacre of the innocents, was written for The Shearman and Tailors’ Pageant as part of the Coventry mystery plays. These were a cycle of mediaeval plays from the West Midlands city, the earliest recorded dating from 1393. The cycle comprised of at least ten plays although only two have survived to the present day. They continued for nearly two centuries before being suppressed in 1579 following the Protestant Reformation.

In 1956, Kenneth Leighton set these words for solo soprano and unaccompanied chorus. Leighton was born in Wakefield in 1929 and was a Chorister at the Cathedral there. He studied music at Oxford University and later returned as a Fellow and Music Lecturer. Two years ago in this magazine, this carol - Lullay, Lulla, Thou Little Tiny Child - was chosen as one of my ten favourite Christmas carols. You can view a You Tube clip of this carol on my Christmas page as well as listen to all of my top ten favourite carols.

The Coventry Carol also forms the third movement of one of my favourite pieces of Christmas instrumental music – the Carol Symphony by Victor Hely-Hutchinson. He was born in South Africa on Boxing Day, 1901, the son of the governor of Cape Colony. He was educated at Eton College, Balliol College, Oxford and the Royal College of Music. After a spell working at the University of Cape Town, Hely-Hutchinson joined the BBC, working as conductor, pianist, accompanist and, after a spell as Professor of Music at the University of Birmingham, Director of Music. He died of pneumonia at the premature age of 45 during the exceptionally harsh winter of 1947. His Carol Symphony was written in 1927 and consists of four movements. The outer sections of the third movement are based on the Coventry Carol with a central interlude based on The First Nowell featuring a solo harp. This was used as the theme tune for BBC TV’s 1984 adaptation of John Masefield’s The Box of Delights. Interestingly, Masefield’s book had been adapted for radio on the BBC’s Children’s Hour during the Second World War when Hely-Hutchinson’s music was also used. You can view a You Tube clip of the opening titles of this programme on my Christmas page as well as listen to this section of the Carol Symphony.

May I take this opportunity to wish all of you a merry Christmas and a happy new year. If you have any comments or questions I would be very pleased to hear from you – my email address is

Dec 6th
Prelude – O Come O Come Emmanuel - C.Hand
Postlude – Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland – J.S.Bach

Dec 13th
Prelude – Berceuse ("Peterhouse Chapel Windows Suite") - B.Ferguson
Postlude – Gottes Sohn ist kommen – J.S.Bach

Dec 20th (10am)
Prelude – Coventry Carol – Betty Roe
Postlude – Vom Himmel Hoch – J.Pachelbel

Dec 20th (6.30pm)
Prelude – Six Interludes on Christmas Carols – W.Lloyd-Webber
Postlude - In Dulci Jubilo – J.S.Bach; Toccata - Widor


On November 22nd musicians celebrate their patron saint, Cecilia. I was reminded of this during the summer holidays when we were visiting the Chateau de Chenonceau in the Loire valley. This wonderful palace dates from the sixteenth century and was home to Henri II’s mistress, Diane de Poitiers, until the King’s death when it was taken over by his widow, Catherine de Medici. In one of the bedrooms hangs this 17th Florentine painting of St Cecilia.

The origins of Cecilia are somewhat uncertain although she may have died in Sicily under Emperor Marcus Aurelius around 180. Her musical fame rests on the legend that she praised God by singing to him as she lay dying a martyr’s death. A church in Rome – Santa Cecilia in Trastevere – was dedicated to the saint by the fifth century. The connection between Cecilia and music seems to date from around the 15th century and soon substantial festivals and celebrations were being held in her honour. The composer Henry Purcell wrote three odes to St Cecilia and more recently Herbert Howells and Benjamin Britten have written choral works dedicated to the saint. Recently I came across another painting of St Cecilia seated at an organ. This was in the spectacular Foreign and Commonwealth Office building which is open to the public once each year during Open House weekend in September. This is a wonderful event where hundreds of buildings which are not normally accessible open their doors.

Nov 1st
Prelude – “Rhosymedre” – R.Vaughan Williams
Postlude – “Hyfrodol” – R.Vaughan Williams

Nov 8th
Prelude – Nimrod – E.Elgar
Postlude – Fame and Glory – A.Matt

Nov 15th
Prelude – Lyric Melody – C.Armstrong Gibbs
Postlude – Jubilate Deo – C.Armstrong Gibbs

Nov 22nd
Prelude – Vocalise – S.Rachmaninov
Postlude – Toccata – G.Mushel

Nov 29th
Prelude – Wachet Auf – J.S.Bach
Postlude – Crown Imperial – W.Walton


In last month’s magazine, Nora wrote about the forthcoming Deanery Choirs’ Festival and in my column this month I should like to write in detail about some of the music and their composers.

The word toccata comes from the Italian word “to touch” and describes a virtuosic piece featuring fast-moving passages. Johann Sebastian Bach’s Toccata in F Major begins with a long held pedal note above which is weaved a canon – the left hand imitating the right. Later on in the work there are two extended solos for the pedals on their own.

As well as composing, Malcolm Archer has enjoyed a distinguished career as cathedral organist at Norwich, Bristol, Wells and St Paul’s and is currently Director of Music at Winchester College. His setting of Charles Wesley’s words “Rejoice the Lord is King” dates from 1995 and was written for that year’s Methodist Church Conference. I first came across the piece during my school’s 2005 choir tour and you can hear a performance in Greenwich Royal Naval College (pictured) where I accompany over 200 pupils from twelve schools in eight countries worldwide all sharing the name of St Margaret by clicking here. Malcolm Archer also wrote the hymn tune “Redland” to which we shall be singing “King of Glory, King of Peace”.

The composers Charles Stanford (Psalm 97) and Charles Wood (“O thou the central Orb”) have a number of things in common apart from their forenames! Both were born in Ireland, both are best known for their Anglican church music, both taught at the Royal College of Music – in fact Wood was a pupil of Stanford - and both held the post of Professor of Music at Cambridge University, Wood succeeding Stanford on his death.

The descant to the final hymn “Crown him with many crowns” was written in 1999 by Drew Tulloch, former Head of Music at St Margaret’s School in Aberdeen, for the 250th Anniversary of my school, St Margaret’s Bushey, when it was performed in St Paul’s Cathedral by St Margaret’s choirs from the UK, USA, Australia and New Zealand.

Henri Mulet (Carillon Sortie) studied the organ with Charles Widor and went on to become choirmaster at Sacre-Coeur in Paris. He spent his last thirty years in seclusion at Draguignan Cathedral in Provence and was organist there for most of this time.

Oct 4th
Prelude – Andantino – E.Lemare
Postlude – Carillon-Sortie – H.Mulet

Oct 11th
Prelude – Toccata in F Major - J.S.Bach
Postlude – Prelude in F Minor – J.S.Bach

Oct 18th
Prelude – Bailero – J.Canteloube
Postlude – Postlude in D Minor – C.Stanford

Oct 25th
Prelude – Priere a Notre-Dame – L.Boellmann
Postlude – Toccata – L.Boellmann


Felix Mendelssohn was born 200 years ago, less than two months before the death of Joseph Haydn. He was born in Hamburg into an intellectual family and together with his siblings was given the best education possible. Mendelssohn was regarded as a child prodigy, giving his first public performance at the age of nine and at twelve had written his first composition.

In 1829 Mendelssohn arranged and conducted a performance in Berlin of J.S.Bach’s “St Matthew Passion”. This was the first since Bach’s death in 1750 and was an important element in the revival of the master’s music. The same year Mendelssohn undertook the first of ten visits to Britain. This was a great success and he made a deep impression on British musical life. He also travelled to Scotland where he was to get his inspiration for his Hebrides overture “Fingal’s Cave” and his 3rd Symphony (“Scottish”). As well as being a musician, Mendelssohn was also a skilled artist.

Mendelssohn’s principal works for the organ were his six organ sonatas (1845) and his three preludes and fugues (1837). He also edited the first critical editions of J.S.Bach’s organ music.

His incidental music for Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was written at different times of his life. The earliest was the overture written when Mendelssohn was just 17. The Wedding March was written in 1842, just five years before his death at the age of just 38. This month would have been my mother and late father’s Golden wedding anniversary and I shall be playing this piece in honour of this event.

September 6th
Prelude – Violin Concerto (2nd Movement) - F.Mendelssohn
Postlude – War March of the Priests - F.Mendelssohn

September 13th
Prelude – O For the Wings of a Dove - F.Mendelssohn
Postlude – Sonata No 4 (1st Movement) – F.Mendelssohn

September 20th
Prelude – Arioso - F.Mendelssohn
Postlude – Sonata No 4 (4th Movement) – F.Mendelssohn

September 27th
Prelude – Hear Ye Israel ("Elijah") - F.Mendelssohn
Postlude – Wedding March ("A Midsummer Night's Dream") - F.Mendelssohn

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