PHI CD 201: ORGANISTS OF THE 1950s VOLUME TWO
Live recital performances from the
First International Congress of Organists
Ralph Downes - The Oratory,
Brompton - 1 August 1957
 John Stanley (1712-1786) Voluntary VIII, Op. 5, 1748
 Harold Darke (1888-1976) Chorale Prelude on a Theme by Tallis Op. 20, 1919
Harold Darke - St. Michael's Cornhill - 2 August 1957
- Hubert Parry (1848-1918) Fantasia & Fugue in G
 Herbert Howells (1892-1983) Fugue, Chorale & Epilogue from Six Pieces
 Harold Darke A Fantasy Op. 39
John Dykes Bower - St. Paul's Cathedral - 2 August 1957
- J.S. Bach (1685-1750) Prelude & Fugue in G, BWV. 541
 Herbert Howells Paean
Francis Jackson - Westminster Abbey - 27 July 1957
 Samuel Wesley (1766-1837) Voluntary in E
 Flor Peeters (1903-1986) Aria, Op. 51, 1945
 Leo Sowerby (1895-1968) Toccata, 1940
- Speech by Sir William McKie, chairman of the congress given
at the dinner to mark the conclusion of congress held in the
Connaught Rooms, Great Queen's Street, London, 2 August 1957
 Toast Master  Introductory comments  The London County Council & Festival Hall Organ  Comments on the Congress
TOTAL PLAYING TIME: 79.30
Recordings digitally restored & produced by Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings
Above ICO Committee members
1957- Standing left to right: Mr Howard Vernon, Mr Henry Croft Jackson, Dr H. Lowery,
Dr A.J. Pritchard, Mr George Malcolm, Mr D.H.R. Brearley, Mr C.H.
Mortlock, Mr A.H. Morriss & Mr Dean Bown.
Seated left to right: Mr W.D. Richardson, Dr Dykes Bower, Sir William Mckie, Dr W. Greenhouse Allt, Mr W.F. Mahony & Mr J.A. Sowerbutts.
Above the performers: Downes, Darke, Dykes Bower & Jackson
I am grateful to Terry Hoyle of Tuffley, Gloucester, who kindly provided the L.P. records heard on this CD and to David Rogers of Doncaster who transcribed them to digital audio tape. Also thanks to Paul Hale, Editor of Organists' Review for kindly permitting the reproduction of the article from Organists' Quarterly Record and for the photograph of John Dykes Bower. The recordings were produced by the American label, Mirrosonic, the master tapes no longer exist.
All recordings made during public recitals are prone to some unwanted occurrences. One such is the cipher on the organ during the Bach fugue, track 8. However Dykes Bower battles on in an admirable fashion. The difficulties of live concert recordings are described in one of the L.P. sleeve notes, where the producer comments: These recordings are a candid, aural document of an event in every sense of the word. They were made as the recitals and other programmes of the International Congress of Organists actually took place. This accounts for the presence of extraneous sounds from within the churches; which we believe, adds to the authenticity of the programmes.
Potentially hazardous to the success of the recordings, however, was the fact that they had to be made without rehearsal. The events of the I.C.O. took place in such rapid succession and in so many different locations that pre-performance run-throughs were impossible. Only careful planning of the engineering crew's moves about London made it barely possible to have a van load of equipment set up and checked out, minutes before a recital started - not the easiest way to make high fidelity recordings!
Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings
The First International Congress of Organists 1957
Extracts taken from a contemporary account given in Organists' Quarterly Record by
Stainton de B. Taylor, who was editor of the magazine
Reproduced by kind permission of Organists' Review
The thirty-third Congress of the Incorporated Association of Organists was this year mergered within the framework of the International Congress organised in London during the week July 27th - August 2nd by a representative Committee under the Chairmanship of Sir William Mckie. It was sponsored by the Royal College of Organists, our own Association, the Canadian College of Organists and the American Guild of Organists, and comprised of a very full programme of organ recitals, services and lectures, visits to noteworthy organs and social meetings. In all of these activities musicians played a worthy part, collaborating with the greatest of friendliness to carry through a series of events which not only included great artistic experiences, but may also be said to have made musical history, inasmuch as nothing on quite this scale had been organised before in this country, at any rate in this particular field.
- The congress began with a recital by Dr. Francis Jackson in Westminster Abbey, followed by Evensong directed by the Abbey's organist, Sir William McKie (1901-1984), assisted by his sub-Organist, Dr. Osborne Peasgood (1902-1962).
- Ralph Downes's recital at the Brompton Oratory was intended to provide 'A Miniature Anthology of English Organ Music", and if it was a trifle backwards looking, it was none the worse for that. At the Oratory, Mr Downes is the fortunate possessor of an organ designed by himself and built by Messrs. J.W. Walker and Sons on simular lines to that at the Royal Festival Hall. Moreover, he has in the Oratory building a superb sounding board such as the Royal Festival Hall can never be. Here we are able to appreciate just how appropriate to its surroundings, acoustically speaking, an organ designed in accordance with the 18th centaury tonal principles can be. One of Mr Downes's concessions to contemporary British music consisted of Dr. Darke's Prelude on a Theme of Tallis - played in a manner that bought out its many beauties.
- At St. Michael's Church, Cornhill, an audience that overflowed into the street outside listened to Dr. Harold Darke's impeccable performances of a programme devoted to English organ music written within the past fifty years or so - an admirable complement to Mr Downes's programme of the day before. Dr. Darke played his programme with the artistry we always expect from him, without disappointment.
- And so to the final service of Congress - Evensong at St. Paul's Cathedral, preceded by a short organ recital given by Dr. John Dykes Bower, who gave a fine performance of Bach's G major Prelude and Fugue and concluded with an expressive performance of Pean by Howells.
- An immense concourse gathered for the Dinner at the Connaught Rooms in the evening at which the Chair was taken by Dr. Lewis Elmer, and speeches were made by Sir William Mckie, Mr Gordon Jeffery, Mr Searle Wright, and Dr. Greenhouse Allt. Grace before and after the meal was sung by a quartet of gentlemen from the Choir of Westminster Abbey, and Joseph Cooper entertained the company with some remarkable musical impressions.
The Performers by Martin Monkman
- Ralph William Downes was born in Derby on 16 August 1904 and became well known as the designer of many famous instruments, including the Harrison in the Royal Festival Hall, London and the organ at the Brompton Oratory heard here. He entered the R.C.O. in 1922 as a pupil of Walter Alcock, Henry Ley and Edgar Cook, and in 1925 became organist of Keble College, Oxford. After taking his degree he moved to the U.S.A. to become Director of Music at Princeton University (1928-35) and while in the States studied privately with Fernando Germani. In 1936 he returned to these shores and was appointed Organist of Brompton Oratory, a post he held until 1977. During this period Downes established himself as a well known recitalist and broadcaster, during the 1930s and 40s he gave British premieres of works by Milhaud, Hindermith and Schoenberg. His recordings issued on L.P. records in the 1950s and 1960s were held in high regard. In 1948 he was appointed organist to the L.P.O. and in 1969 was made a C.B.E. In 1983 his book Baroque Tricks was published by O.U.P. Downes's powers as an organist remained well in to his advanced years. He died on Christmas Eve, 1993.
- Harold Edwin Darke was born in London, October 29, 1888, he studied the organ with Parratt and attended the Royal College of Music, where he studied composition with Charles Villiers Stanford. He had a world-wide reputation as one of the finest organists of his era, whose powers did not diminish with age, he gave recitals at the Festival Hall to mark his 75th, 80th and 85th birthdays. He held positions at Emmanuel Church, West Hampstead (1906) and at St. James's Paddington. For fifty years from 1916 to 1966, he was organist of St. Michael's Cornhill, London. His weekly Monday lunch time recitals there became an institution. In 1919 he founded the Saint Michael's Singers and remained their conductor until 1966. Vaughan Williams and Howell were amongst those who composed works for their choral festivals. During the second war he deputised at Kings College, Cambridge for Boris Ord from 1941 to 1945, who was on war service. Darke was president of the Royal College of Organists 1940-41 and a member of the teaching staff at the R.C.O. from 1919 to 1966, in which year he was appointed C.B.E. He did much to promote British music and composed extensively for organ and choir. His Meditation for organ on Brother James's Air and his setting of the carol In the bleak mid-winter are amongst his best known compositions. He died at Cambridge on November 28, 1976.
- John Dykes Bower was born on 13th August, 1905 at Gloucester. He studied with Sir Herbert Brewer, Organist of Gloucester Cathedral. He was educated at Cheltenham College and Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University. He was Organist and Master of the Choristers at Truro Cathedral from 1926-1929, Organist of New College Oxford 1929-1933, Organist of Durham Cathedral, 1933-1936 and a fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 1934-1937. In 1936 he was appointed Organist of St. Paul's Cathedral London, a post he held until his retirement in 1967. From 1960 to 1962 he was President of the R.C.O. and was their Honorary Secretary in 1968. He received the honour of C.V.O in 1953 and was Knighted in 1963.
The Festival of Britain began in May 1951 with a service at St. Paul's attended by King George VI and Queen Elizabeth. The Coronation Thanksgiving Service was attended by Queen II and the Duke of Edinburgh on 9th June 1953, and later that year the choir gave a concert tour of the U.S.A. In 1965, the funeral of Sir Winston Churchill was held in the cathedral. Dykes Bower died on 29th May 1981.
- Francis Alan Jackson was born on 2nd October 1917 in Malton, Yorkshire, a former pupil of Sir Edward Bairstow, and as a boy had been a chorister in the Minster Choir, 1929-1933, Organist of Malton Parish Church, Yorkshire, 1933-1940 and gained his A.R.C.O. in 1936. He won the Limpus Prize F.R.C.O. examination, 1937. He returned to the Minster April 1946 as Assistant Organist after war service in the 9th Lancers in Egypt, N. Africa and Italy, 1940-46. Bairstow died on 1 May 1946 and Jackson was appointed Organist of York Minster on 8th October 1946. He was Conductor York Musical Society, 1947-1982, York Symphony Orchestra, 1947-1980, D.Mus., Durham University, 1957, Hon. F.R.S.C.M., Hon. F.R.N.C.M., 1982, Doctor of the University of York, 1983.
The affection felt by Jackson for his old teacher was reflected in the large amount of Bairstow's music which was sung at the Minster. Also included in the repertoire were works by former York Minster Organists, notably Nares and Noble and by a growing number of living composers including Jackson himself. Dr. Jackson has given organ recitals throughout Great Britain, and in Eire, Germany, France, Italy, Hungary, Switzerland and Denmark. In addition, he has made several tours of the U.S.A., Canada and Australia, he remains to this day much in demand as a recitalist. He retired as Master of the Music of York Minster on 2 October 1982. In 1996 the Ebor Press of York published Dr Jackson's biography of Bairstow, entitled Blessed City, the life and works of Edward C. Bairstow (ISBN 1 85972 192 0). He is Patron of the Percy Whitlock Trust, in succession to Whitlock's widow, Edna. Since Jackson retired from the Minster he has composed prolifically; his opus now numbers 148, includes many choral works, a Symphony for Orchestra (1955), a Concerto for Organ, Strings, Timpani & Celesta (1985) and six organ sonatas, numbers five and six being composed in 2003 and 2004 respectively.
© Martin Monkman, Amphion Recordings, September 2004
The Organs at the time of these recordings
Brompton Oratory: J.W. Walker & Sons, completed 1954, designed by Ralph Downes.
St. Paul's London: 'Father' Smith - 1679. In 1872, 'Father' Henry Willis complete re build with further by modifications by Willis in 1897 and 1900. More alterations by Henry Willis III in 1930.
St Michael's Cornhill: Renatus Harris, rebuilt by Green (1790), Robson (1849),
Bryceson (1868), Hill (1886/1901) and Rushworth & Dreaper (1925).
Westminster Abbey: Built Harrison & Harrison, 1937, with some pipework retained and revoiced from the Hill organ. The organ was used for the first time at the Coronation of George VI on the 12 May 1937.