Organ music old & new for the season

Organ music for Advent and Christmas with Carols, Blacklands Church, November 30. Review by Marrion Wells.

A mix of traditional and modern seasonal music, long-established and less so was Stephen Page’s recipe for those who exchanged the hurry and bustle of Christmas shopping for the serenity of Blacklands church and an organ whose sound filled every corner of this large building.

From opening with a modern fanfare Stephen launched into Joy to the World, its familiarity encouraging the audience to join in.

Then came what today is seemingly obligatory at every organ recital, a work by Johann Sebastian (‘Father’) Bach. Here the theme was Sleepers Awake!

The audience played their part in the following carol O come, O come Emmanuel. Stephen demonstrated the organ’s traditional role in Eric Thiman’s Variation on Adeste Fideles (O come All Ye Faithful) and in total contrast, present-day composer Howard Blake’s greatly appreciated Dance of the Snowmen.

The audience exercised their vocal chords again in the carol Lo He comes with clouds descending.

A modern piece was William Lloyd Webber’s Rhapsody on Helmsley.

Andrew’s father, a renowned musicologist and composer, was a frequent visitor to Hastings and his friend All Saints’ organist Vincent Batts.

Apparently it was not only the Old Town churches they were wont to frequent.

Philip Marshall’s Prelude included the hymn tune Oh Little Town of Bethlehem.

From Samuel Wesley, son of hymn writer Charles, came a carol as a rondo, a quick fiery dance.

Noel Rawsthorne, one-time broadcaster, composer and organist of Liverpool Anglican Cathedral contributed transcriptions of three songs, ending with Ding Dong Merrily on High.

Hark the Herald Angels Sing, with a variation by Colin Mawby giving the audience a final chance to join in, closed Stephen’s programme, which from the resounding applause was greatly appreciated by everyone present.