Paul Hale as recitalist & guest speaker
Church Times - 1 December 2017 - critic Roderick Dunnett
The English Cathedral Series - Volume XIV - Regent Records REGCD248
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.
The Hinckley Times - 21 June 2017 - article by Rachel Parrish
The pipe organ in Hinckley's United Reformed Church is to be played at a weekend of events to mark the 150th anniversary of its construction. The organ has a double claim to fame in that it is believed to be the largest surviving instrument built by renowned London maker G M Holdich, and was made to the design of composer Dr H J Gauntlett, who penned the tune for Once in Royal David's City.
Built in 1867 for the Union Chapel in Islington, it arrived in Hinckley 1878 where, at a cost of £600, it was installed by its maker in the gallery of what was then the Borough Congregational Church. It was moved to its present position at the front of the building in The Borough in 1903. Ten years ago, in June 2007, the United Reformed Church marked the completion of a £113,000 restoration of the historic instrument with a recital by revered British musician Dame Gillian Weir.
A decade on, to mark the double anniversary, another special recital and service are to be held. On Saturday June 24 at 7pm, a gala concert is to be performed by Paul Hale, former organist and director of music at Southwell Minster, in Nottinghamshire. Then on Sunday June 25 at 10.45am people are invited to join a Songs of Praise style service where members of the congregation will be choosing their favourite hymns to be accompanied by long-serving church organist David Crick.
From an audience member, after the Hinckley recital
Congratulations on your superb recital at Hinckley last Saturday. I particularly admired your command of registration in the César Franck Choral in A minor, a long-time favourite of mine. The expressiveness of your interpretation captured the spirit of the piece wonderfully.
The Organ, following Bloomsbury Organ Day 2017
A report from 'Our Correspondent'
Paul Hale is probably better equipped than anyone to talk about the Leeds organ builder J. J. Binns both through his own researches and the fact that as Cathedral Organist Emeritus and Rector Chori of Southwell Minster he was instrumental in the installation of the Binns nave organ there. Paul Hale is a brilliant and persuasive communicator away from the organ bench and this was a most absorbing presentation—particularly in the light of the Bloomsbury pipework.
Paul Hale's recital was a predictable tour de force—a symphony of colour from the first note, exploiting, as he hinted in his introduction, just about every stop on the organ. Percy Whitlock's Fanfare showcased the grand Binns tuba; the Samuel Scheidt Variations on an Old Netherlandish Song conjured up a more primitive era with lean and sparkling nasal timbres. There is no doubt that Paul Hale is capable of teasing out fire and brimstone on an organ such as this and the Andriessen Quatrième Choral did just that: broodingly dark and intense at the start, this impassioned performance left many in the audience reflecting as to why this work is not better known. The concluding Karg-Elert Homage to Handel with all of its 57 brief variations provided the recitalist a golden opportunity for kaleidoscopic adventure, the work reaching an overwhelming conclusion. In short, the recital was a thrilling climax to a well-organised and thoroughly enjoyable day.
Geoff Howell writing in Derby & District Organists' Association Newsletter, November 2016
On 29th August 2016 we journeyed to Southwell, with Jumble the dog, to enjoy the bank holiday afternoon organ recital—Paul Hale’s last recital as Rector Chori. We arrived over an hour early and many visitors were basking in the glorious sunshine on the grass around the minster. It was the last day of the Southwell Music Festival and, peering in through the wide open great west door, we were faced with a large choir on raked seating with a full nave of audience in between. A ‘Come and Sing’ event was in full swing with Stanford’s Magnificat in G.
At the south door, we were greeted by a friendly welcomer, who explained how dog-friendly they were—Kenneth Beard had often brought his dog in (as had Dr Sinclair at Hereford, much to Elgar’s approval). We spent some time wandering around the transept (behind the raked seating) and quire, and admiring Caröe’s fine case containing the 1996 Nicholson screen organ. No sooner had the minster emptied, than it began to fill again for the free organ recital. As before, the welcomers could not have been more helpful. With twenty minutes to go, the nave, side aisles and raked seating were packed, and Jumble had settled down to sleep for the next ninety minutes or more. The recital was on the nave organ, which occupies the first four bays of the south triforium, and the mobile console was in the central aisle in front of the nave audience.
At 3.30, Paul launched into Percy Whitlock’s Fanfare, a rousing start, introducing us to the reeds of his beloved 1905 Binns organ, rebuilt at Southwell by Wood in 1992. After that, he spoke eloquently and amusingly about each item. Whitlock had always been a particular favourite of his, he told us, even before he had stepped into Whitlock’s shoes at Rochester. Paul is a trustee of the Percy Whitlock Trust, which has done so much to ensure the publication of Whitlock’s music. Paul said that, as Whitlock’s music would come out of copyright at the end of 2016, the trust would be wound up, with its balance going to the Royal College of Organists for educational projects. In contrast, he followed that with Bach’s chorale prelude on Schmücke dich. He had us all repeating the name of Swell stop featured – the Sesquialtera: every organ should have one! We then heard the Prelude and Fugue in C (BWV 545), which Paul had played in his first BBC broadcast, from Birmingham.
Moving on to Albinoni’s Adagio (arranged by Giazotto), Paul told anecdotes of organ trips with Roy Massey (then Birmingham Cathedral organist) around Denmark, where he had bought this music. He described some of the soft stops he would use and of course we were enthralled by his beautiful interpretation of the well-known tune.
The longest piece in the recital (he referred to it as the ‘roast beef’) was Healey Willan’s Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue. ‘Let’s go on a musical journey together’, he said – and indeed we did! After that, we needed a sorbet, in the form of Schumann’s Sketch for pedal-piano in D flat , charmingly played. Having mentioned his three hip operations, Paul then proceeded to stand precariously on the organ bench, swivelling around to take pictures of the audience in all directions (which he said would appear on Facebook). He then finished to a standing ovation with Mulet’s Carillon-Sortie, which had been his last voluntary at Rochester in 1989. For an encore, he chose to go back to Whitlock and his Fidelis. He said that Whitlock had been an unassuming man and had liked to finish with a quiet piece and slide off the bench and disappear. No such luck for Paul! Well, it was a lesson in how to present an entertaining and interesting programme for a bank holiday afternoon. And Southwell Minster is to be congratulated on how well it welcomes visitors.
Paul still had two days to go before retiring across the Trent to Bingham, and we wish him all the best after 27 years of such distinguished service at Southwell. Jumble, having survived the Solo tuba, the Great reeds and the thunderous applause, stood up, shook herself, and was ready to inspect the console and try to appear in the photograph with Paul.
Catharine Otton-Goulder, QC
writing after the inaugural recital at St Andrew’s Church, Bainton
Although I appreciate that our organ is at the smaller end of your spectrum, the achievement of its restoration has been tremendously important for us at Bainton, and Andrew Carter has certainly managed to transform a sow’s ear into a silk purse, by dint of great skill and a colossal amount of hard work. The crown of this achievement was your inaugural recital, which dazzled all present by its humour, virtuosity, range of programme, and sheer education. It is indeed a triumph to persuade the great unwashed to enjoy being taught! I realise that a great deal of thought must have gone into the planning of the recital, and its delivery was simply first class. I hope you are as proud of that as you must be of your recitals on the grand organs at the other end of your spectrum. To be able to reach out to people who know nothing whatever about the organ in terms which are both intelligible and entertaining is no small feat.
Kyle McCallum - President of the Scottish Federation of Organists
following a lecture and recital for the Scottish Federation of Organists
On behalf of Aberdeen and District Organists' Association I just wish to thank you so very much for coming, for providing such an interesting and imaginative programme and for playing so wonderfully for us on that occasion. You are truly an outstanding musician, organist and communicator and it was indeed a huge, huge privilege for us to have you as our honoured guest. Feedback from the occasion has been most gratifying. Your talk too was extremely interesting and enthralling, just exactly the kind of thing we were looking for.
Comments from members of the public
after a demonstration recital at Southwell Minster, 23rd January 2015
Thank you for a wonderful concert. I thought the balance of playing the organ and speaking about it was excellent. The audience was clearly very engaged with you. The combination of listening to wonderful music and learning more about the organ and organ music was perfect, and your explanations were clear and fascinating.
Thank you so much to Paul for such an inspiring concert. We learnt so much in such a short time as not only is Paul a wonderful organist but an excellent teacher too. Can we have more concerts like that from Paul (when he has the time)?
Andrew Morton, Secretary, Somerset Organists & Choirmasters Association
after a talk at SOCA AGM, November 2014
It was a great pleasure having you with us today at our AGM, and we enjoyed your talk immensely. We never knew what was going to happen next, with organs going up in smoke and huge cheques appearing like rabbits out of a hat.
Cathedral Music - May 2014 - critic Tim Rogerson
'Southwell Splendour2' solo organ CD - OxRecs OXCD120
The Nicholson organ at Southwell was installed on the screen in 1996 and contains a significant amount of pipework from a Victorian instrument originally installed elsewhere. It is therefore suitable for playing a wide range of pieces, as demonstrated most ably by Paul Hale on this disc. Six of the fifteen tracks have been previously issued, leaving Malcolm Archer’s Festival Toccata, Andriessen’s Choral IV, Harmonies du Soir by Karg-Elert, and a Southwell Suite by Christopher Rathbone as the newly-recorded pieces.
The Festival Toccata was written for the opening recital of the organ at St John the Evangelist, Boxmoor, Hemel Hempstead and is clearly influenced by the great French toccatas. Readers who are organists themselves might be interested to obtain a copy of the score. The other work of particular note, the Southwell Suite, is based on the two hymn tunes which are called ‘Southwell’. The best known is usually sung to the words ‘Lord Jesus, think on me’, whilst the other (composed by a former Rector Chori of the Minster) is usually paired with ‘Jerusalem, my happy home’. The suite focuses mainly on the second tune and comprises five movements, the last of which is an exciting Toccata. Paul Hale gives a committed performance of the programme and the recording quality is good, which makes for an interesting disc.
The Gramophone - April 2014 - critic Malcolm Riley
'Southwell Splendour2' solo organ CD - OxRecs OXCD120
In 1998 OxRecs released a critically acclaimed disc of music released to celebrate the installation of the new Nicholson organ on the Screen of Southwell Minster, a few miles west of Newark. On that occasion the playing honours were shared between the Minster’s Rector Chori and organist, Paul Hale, and his then assistant, Philip Rushworth.
This second volume includes some of those 1998 tracks, in music by Buxtehude, Dandrieu, Karg-Elert and Dubois. Such is the versatility of this instrument that it can tackle a wide range of repertory with ease. Since it speaks eastwards into the Choir, the reverberation length is a little drier than some listeners might expect in such a large building. Nevertheless, there are many organic thrills to be had, with old favourites juxtaposed with strong and fresh new music.
Archer’s attractive Festival Toccata dates from 2011 and owes a good deal to French models, while still retaining more than a hint of the Lancastrian Fells in its striding, undulating theme. Equally welcome is Rathbone’s Southwell Suite, which is almost entirely inspired by H Irons’s hymn tune, Southwell. This plain little melody undergoes an exhaustively (though entertainingly) wide range of treatments and transformations, before rounding the disc off with another rousing Toccata.
The most substantial single movement on the programme is the fourth Choral composed in 1921 by Hendrik Andriessen. Firmly in the Franckian tradition (albeit with a heavy dose of the neo-Baroque), this is a fine showcase for a magnificently symphonic instrument, played with consummately polished artistry by its designer.
Organists’ Review - March 2014 - critic Marcus Huxley
'Southwell Splendour2' solo organ CD - OxRecs OXCD120
This is an excellent demonstration of the four-manual Nicholson organ at Southwell Minster. The organ’s main main purpose is to accompany the daily office to the east of the dividing screen, but it is clearly equipped to do much more than that, and this cleverly devised programme is ideally suited to demonstrating that the instrument is able both to produce a wide range of sonorities and to speak convincingly in both Baroque and Romantic musical styles. In addition to its versatility, this instrument can also boast consistently excellent tone quality.
Roughly half the tracks are taken from a previous CD (Southwell Splendour). These are supplemented by new recordings of works by Malcolm Archer and Hendrik Andriessen and a recent Southwell Suite composed for Paul Hale by Christopher Rathbone. Some colourful registrations in pieces by Buxtehude and Dandrieu amply demonstrate the organ’s Baroque credentials, while works by Andriessen and Karg-Elert reveal respectively some dark, dramatic sonorities and the expressive strings at the player’s disposal. Dubois’s Fiat Lux is a particularly good choice for showing the organ’s dynamic range, as the whole piece is one long build-up (very deftly managed, by the way) from the ppp opening to an impressively powerful and brilliant ffff climax. Rathbone’s Southwell Suite, based on H.S. Irons’s major-key hymn tune, Southwell, with a brief reference to the better-known and older minor-key tune, also uses a variety of colourful textures and composing styles.
To judge by this CD, the people of Southwell are surely justified in their enthusiasm for this splendid instrument.
The Diapason USA - February 2014
The English Cathedral Series - Volume XIV - Regent Records
The English Cathedral Series has to be one of the least known, first rate organ series in existence, and volume 14 makes a powerful argument in favor of many more organ-lovers acquainting themselves with this monumental series. Paul Hale enjoys an enviable reputation as an organ consultant, and indeed he designed the splendid new four manual, 51 stop (60 rank) Nicholson screen organ in one of England's prettiest, most picturesque Cathedrals; however, judging from the playing on this recording, he deserves a far higher profile as a performer.
John Cook's stirring Fanfare for the Festival of Britain Pageant opens the program, with its wonderful trumpet blasts, before Robert Schaab's transcription of Franz Listz's symphonic poem, Orpheus, which provides a pretty complete audio tour around this magnificent, stately instrument. The main meat of the program is François Couperin's Messe pour les Couvents, the second of two surviving organ masses, with its beautiful, refined structure and Hale's superb ornament realizations. For those who haven't yet come to appreciate the beauty of baroque organ masses, this would be an excellent acquisition, as it is only through hearing the latin chants, which punctuate this recording courtesy of four boy choristers of Southwell Minster choir, that this music can be properly understood and appreciated. The disc closes with Sigrid Karg-Elert's monumental Homage to Handel, with its three-part structure and monumental climax, utilizing the many and varied tonal colors of this thrilling new Nicholson organ, and demonstrating Hale's superb technical skills and his great musicianship.
At a total playing time of 79:34 this CD represents excellent value, with highly assured and musical playing and Regent's usual beautiful presentation, this disc makes a compelling argument for your hard-earned dollars - if you haven't already started to collect this series, you might want to give it serious consideration, starting here with volume fourteen.
Martyn Strachan, Organist, Reid Memorial Church, Edinburgh - after a recital, October 2013
Thank you again for your splendid recital at Reid Memorial Church and for two extremely pleasant evenings in your company. I look forward to asking you again to play at Reid Memorial. A lot of people told me how much they enjoyed your playing and many particularly appreciated your explanation of the details of registration, so that they knew what to listen for. This seems to have made a significant difference to the audience's enjoyment and it is an example that I shall copy.
Audience comments after the recital at St Leonard's, Wollaton, Saturday, 27th April 2013
The event has been the talk of St Leonard's ever since. You were a hit! Your playing of, and demonstrating features of, the instrument have been commented upon greatly and your commentary and touches of humour have also been mentioned time and time again. Many have been asking when we shall have another recital - so you may well receive another invitation. Thanks and thanks again; it was superb
review by Michael Stacey
"This is lovely; I so seldom turn round from the organ bench and find a full church!" said Paul Hale after his opening flourish on the Willis/Groves organ at St Leonard's. He had just played Gaudeamus by Sydney Campbell, and I thought "That's no different from the old organ - just as direct and nothing new!" However, I was soon to be awakened to what was possible on this "new" instrument built by Jonathan Wallis of Henry Groves & Son, incorporating the original 'Father Willis' organ of 1881!
Two pieces for the new Choir organ box of tricks located behind the console in the South aisle by Tomkins (C16) demonstrated its beauty and ability to accompany the choir on their own and a Trumpet voluntary by Boyce (C18) really showed its true colours. Next, music by JS Bach, Mendelssohn and Schumann gave varying styles of composition and were followed by a very new piece by Christopher Rathbone, Variations on the two hymn tunes called Southwell the complicated fingerwork of which Paul played with elan - a piece which needs hearing many more times to appreciate the work involved by composer and organist. Paul ended his recital with pieces by César Franck - such a wistful tune, William Walton - his music for the film Richard III, and a modern Toccata by Malcolm Archer.
Throughout his recital Paul entertained us with anecdotes about the music, his life as an organ consultant which finds him travelling to organs at opposite ends of the country, notwithstanding his responsibilities as Organ Adviser to the Dioceses of Southwell and Lincoln! "What a jolly evening!" he said, and some 200 people in the audience thoroughly agreed.
Sir David Lumsden after Winchester Cathedral recital, May 2011
Your consummate artistry must stem from your unique experience, as academic and scholar (concerning different periods and styles), your unrivalled knowledge of the insides of organs, your masterly technique and - perhaps most important of all - your great success as a choir-trainer, which means you instinctively and naturally let the music breath, take shape, vary colour and dynamics and communicate with the listener. You hold all this in enviable balance and always seem to enjoy what you are doing, which of course communicates itself apparently effortlessly.