For our 2018 tutorial series we’re concentrating on the organ as a means of choral accompaniment. Accompanying a choir requires that the instrument supports boldly in a limited number of places, but recedes at many other times to allow the vocal parts to come through. It is also heard in solo role joining choral sections together or providing an introduction that sets the tone for what is to follow.
In this series church choral music was chosen to illustrate the accompaniment of various parts of the liturgy and to highlight some well-known anthems. Many of the pieces will be within the range of typical church choirs. Listening to these performances you can hear how well just four professional singers — Emily Armour, Elspeth Marrow, Joseph Thompson and Jack Lawrence-Jones — bring these pieces alive.
The setting for these recordings, St Mary’s, Chalgrove, is a beautiful medieval church stunningly restored in 2015. Music will no doubt have long been an important part of the worship in what was a very wealthy parish. You can find out more about the singers, the series and the recording sessions involved in our earlier “Behind the Scenes” blog post.
“O Thou the Central Orb” – Charles Wood
The first release in the 2018 series is the rousing favourite, “O Thou the Central Orb” by Charles Wood. Like his near contemporary Stanford, Wood hailed from the island of Ireland, and succeeded the former as Professor of Music at Cambridge University in the last few years of his life, after Stanford died in 1924. Wood had been in the first cohort of students of composition at the Royal College of Music, and is principally known for his Anglican church music, most of which was written in the later part of his life.
“O Thou the Central Orb” was composed in 1915 to words by H.R. Bramley. It exemplifies Wood’s skill at putting together satisfying anthems with robust organ accompaniments that epitomize the Edwardian English style. In his recent book “O Sing Unto the Lord”, Andrew Gant speaks of Wood’s anthems as making “the archetypal noise of Anglicanism”. He rather amusingly refers to this anthem in particular as the ultimate all-purpose English anthem, “equally suitable for every occasion from a wet Thursday to a Diamond Jubilee, and every Sunday-after-something in between. It sounds good, and the words don’t mean anything at all. Perfect.”
The organ gets its chances to shine in the introduction, and in various linking passages. As Jonathan Kingston explains in his introduction to this recording, “This anthem is something of a mini masterpiece, offering a great deal of scope for contrast and tonal change. Accompanists would do well to plan registration changes in advance and to facilitate them by plenty of swell pedal shade, observing how best to support the variety of choral textures and reserving the grander combinations of the instrument to the build up within the concluding bars. This is a moment where the whole ensemble of the swell division may be used, making prominent use of the double reed at 16 foot pitch alongside the mixture, which are the two necessary ingredients when linking to the pomp and dignity of the romantic English choral tradition.”
Watch the video
This is played on a custom built Envoy 23-S, which is a very popular church instrument.
About Jonathan Kingston’s Musical Background
Jonathan was an organ student while studying with Ian Tracey and Ian Wells at Liverpool Anglican Cathedral before being appointed Sub Organist at Bradford Cathedral, aged 18. Assistant Director and Director of Music appointments followed at Stowe and Bromsgrove Schools before an appointment to The King’s School in Ely where he served Ely Cathedral as a deputy organist.
Jonathan is a recording artist for Naxos, Priory and EMI Records and is an ABRSM examiner and coordinator touring the UK and internationally. As an organist, he has appeared with many leading orchestras and choirs including the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic, Halle, London Symphony Orchestra & Chorus and English Symphony Orchestra as well as featuring in many live broadcasts on BBC radio and television.
He is the newly appointed Director of Music at Stony Stratford Parish Church where he presides over the magnificent Willis pipe organ.
Jonathan’s Work With Viscount
Jonathan’s work with Viscount Classical Organs encompasses performing and presenting promotional and tutorial material for the company and his freelance portfolio covers educational outreach, teaching, performing, examining and musical direction. He covers several areas for Viscount from sales, demonstrations, voicing of instruments and performing. His playing features on the current promotional DVD material for Viscount, and he would be very pleased to hear from any churches or individuals requiring an engaging and lively recitalist. If you would like to connect with Jonathan directly, please feel free to follow him on Twitter (@jonkingston) or by email on firstname.lastname@example.org.
About the Digital Organ Being Played
Jonathan plays this piece on an instrument based on our Envoy 23-S. A ‘Physical Modelling’ based instrument with 23 stops in a real wood veneer cabinet. It has a huge internal library allowing the user to create 4 totally individual voice pallets from classic English through Baroque and Romantic. It benefits from a full complement of divisional thumb pistons and additional toe pistons. The standard 23-S organ has a 30 note pedal board while the instrument in the film has a 32 note board. For more information have a look at the specifications here.