Organ recordings

Southwell Splendour 2
Paul Hale organ
OxRecs Digital OXCD120
May be purchased as a CD from the  OxRecs website
or downloaded from Qobuz

Review in Cathedral Music

Cathedral Music – May 2014: Tim Rogerson

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.

Review in The Gramophone

The Gramophone – April 2014: Malcolm Riley

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.

Review in Organists' Review

Organists’ Review – March 2014: Marcus Huxley

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.

A Festival Toccata – Malcolm Archer
Marche Triomphale – Théodore Dubois
Allegretto scherzando (A Southwell Suite) – Christopher Rathbone
A Festival Toccata [5:18]Malcolm Archer (b.1952)
Variations: Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [6:43]Dietrich Buxtehude (c.1637-1707)
Variations: O Filii et Filiae [7:39]Jean-François Dandrieu (c.1682-1738)
Choral IV [8:56]Hendrik Andriessen (1892-1981)
Harmonies du Soir [5:26]Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
From Douze Pièces NouvellesThéodore Dubois (1837-1924)
Marche Triomphale [5:19]
Offertoire [3:36]
In Paradisum [3:49]
Fiat Lux [4:32]
A Southwell SuiteChristopher Rathbone (b. 1947)
Hymn tunes [1:06]
Fantasia [2:14]
Larghetto [2:43]
Allegretto scherzando [3:27]
Adagio [2:08]
Toccata [3:19]
Total playing time [66:58]

English Cathedral series vol XIV
Paul Hale plays organ music from Southwell
Regent Records REGCD248  website

Review from Church Times

Church Times – 1 December 2017: Roderick Dunnett

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.

Review from The Diapason USA

The Diapason USA – February 2014

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.

Sanctus (Messe pour les Couvents) – François Couperin
Fanfare [5:13]John Cook (1918-1984)
Orpheus [11:01]Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
Messe pour les Couvents (with chant) [47:44]François Couperin (1668-1733)
Offertoire sur les grands jeux
Agnus Dei
Deo Gratias
Homage to Handel [15:31]Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933)
Total playing time [79:34]

Fanfare for the Millennium
Paul Hale etc Southwell Minster
The Gough Duo at Douai Abbey
Cantoris Records

Fanfare for the Millennium – Christopher Boodle
Flute-A-Peal – David Bruce-Payne
Carillon – Carleton Etherington
Fanfare for the MillenniumChristopher Boodle
Forest at DawnAndrew Downes
Marche EpiscopaleDavid Briggs
Hymn Tune: ContemplationSir Frederick Ouseley
ContemplationPaul Christison Edwards
Scherzo For FelixAdrian Lucas
DithyrambAndrew Fletcher
Flute-A-PealDavid Bruce-Payne
Triptych of Holy TrinityJohn Harper
CarillonCarleton Etherington
Whim (played by the Gough Duo)Wim de Ruiter
Total playing time [44:28]