Thursday 7th December
It was a real trip down memory lane when I addressed the Birmingham Organists' Association at their Annual Dinner on December 6th. As a youngster I had joined the BOA back in 1966 and much enjoyed five years attending their activities until Oxford beckoned. In my speech I reminisced about the vibrant Birmingham music scene of the late 1960s and early 1970s, a time when Louis Frémaux galvanised the CBSO, Roy Massey did the same at St Philip's cathedral, and the Birmingham School of Music was reborn and rehoused as the Birmingham Conservatoire (now, indeed, the Royal B.C). Great days in a great city!
Friday 1st December
A recent welcome surprise was to read within a fulsome Church Times overview of the Regent Records catalogue, a warm appraisal of my Southwell English Cathedral Series solo CD (REGCD 248) by Roderick Dunnett. After retiring from a cathedral post one does not expect to read reviews of previous recordings, especially such enthusiastic ones. Quite made my week!
from Church Times, 1 December 2917
Paul Hale, till recently Organist of Southwell Minster, has long been one of the outstanding figures of British organ music among cathedral organists, alike as performer, teacher, and adviser. His disc (The English Cathedral Series, Volume 14: REGCD 248) is as good as any by which to commend Regent’s most impressive series of organ recitals, not least because of the boldness of Hale’s chosen pieces.
No traditional bonbons here. Hale has demonstrated his almost unique command of repertoire with a brilliant, unexpected fanfare by John Cook; Liszt’s poem Orpheus sounds not surprisingly like Franck, as well as Liszt himself. Karg-Elert’s Homage to Handel enables the composer to write one of those large-scale passacaglias that Reger favoured.
But the real contrast here is 38 tracks dedicated to the sensationally beautiful and texturally varied Messe pour les Couvents by François Couperin. If organ music reached its zenith with Buxtehude and J.S. Bach, it struck its near-zenith in the solemn and more elegant interludes interspersed here amid choral contributions.
(for an audio excerpt from this CD, visit Organ recordings)