It is fair to say that there was a little anxiety, the evening before the event, that our ‘Battle Concert’ audience might be small as early ticket sales were rather slow. In the end the fears were misplaced and an audience approaching 150 slowly filled the Abbey on Friday evening. One attendee had even driven up from Devon earlier in the day, that’s about 300 miles.
The evening began with a Handel Organ Concerto (see full concert programme and details) delightfully split between the two organs. Then we were treated to both instruments in ‘Solo’ mode which included a very unusual and personal interpretation of ‘Wachet Auf’ by John Scott-Whitely.
Martin Baker followed on with some Sweelinck and Buxtehude on our Skinner Organ where he featured the French Horn, a sound that Buxtehude could not ever have had in mind when composing the piece some 400 years earlier. The French Horn not having come into existence for another 150 years.
Poulenc Organ Concerto for Two Organs
By any measure the star offering of the evening was presented at the opening of the second half. I think we may just claim to be a world premier of the Poulenc Organ Concerto where the String parts were arranged for a second organ by John Scott-Whitely.
This was played by John himself on the Skinner which was well suited to the role having an abundance of ‘String voices’ with sub and super octave couplers to add further depth. Martin took the main organ part on the Abbey Hill.
Barnaby Archer fresh from a BBC Prom concert the night before was on Timpani. It was a thoroughly exciting and enjoyable romp.
Video excerpt of Poulenc performance.
Dazzling Performance of Dubois Toccata
We then heard from Martin on the Hill and then John with as he put it ‘two Gaumant Cinema’ transcriptions of light hearted pieces taking full advantage of the wide voice pallet on the Skinner and with assistance of ‘All Swells to Swell’ so all departments volume was controlled by a single swell shoe.
The evening concluded with a dazzling performance of the Dubois Toccata that was split into ever shorter sections bounced from one instrument to the other like an express tag team event.
Video excerpt of Handel.
Live music was back not a moment too soon. Thank you John, Martin & Barnaby. Thank you Selby Abbey.
Look out for a more complete concert video to be released in the next few weeks.
I have had a passion for church organs since the tender age of 12. I own and run Viscount Organs with a close attention to the detail that musicians appreciate; and a clear understanding of the benefits of digital technology and keeping to the traditional and emotional elements of organ playing.