The Skinner style organ has been created for customers who require a Skinner voiced instrument and wish to invest in a console that draws extensively on the design features of period Skinner instruments. The console you see in the videos below is a near perfect copy of an original Skinner Organ built in 1929 for St Peter’s Episcopal Church in Morristown New Jersey. The voicing, using an identical stop list, is also based on this instrument.
To give our customers a better opportunity to experience this instrument we have recorded three videos with the talented award winning organist Dr Joseph Nolan (read more below about Joseph). The recording was done in Selby Abbey during one evening and we believe it showcases both our instrument and the skills of the organist. We hope you enjoy the performances!
Elegy by Sir George Thalben-Ball
Sir George Thalben-Ball was born in Australia, but lived in the UK for most of his life, becoming well-known as something of a “showman” recitalist in the grand late Victorian/Edwardian style. He became Director of Music at the Temple Church in London, as well as City Organist at Birmingham Town Hall. His name is still held with great respect by the majority of organists.
He dedicated his Elegy, apparently conceived as an improvisation to fill in time at the end of a BBC-recorded service during the war, to Walford Davis who preceded him as organist at the Temple Church in London. It’s maybe an appropriate piece for the time of year during which Remembrance events take place, and it was played during Princess Diana’s funeral.
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 by Bach
Bach was born in Eisenach, Germany in 1685. He was a chorister then violinist before taking his first organist post at Arnstadt while still a teenager. It was in Weimar, as court organist from 1708, that Bach began to produce cantatas, and wrote many of his great organ works, as well as organ transcriptions of concertos by Vivaldi. Many consider Bach the greatest composer of all time.
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (BWV 582) is an organ piece that was presumably composed early in Bach’s career. It is by many considered one of his most important and well-known works, and an important influence on 19th and 20th century passacaglias.
Variations sur un Noël, Op. 20 by Dupré
Marcel Dupré was one of the foremost French organ virtuoso of his time, an heir to the great tradition of Romantic French organ playing and composing. Dupré was famed for his ability to improvise; he also composed substantial works and was a widely travelled recitalist and an influential teacher. In 1920 Dupré gave a series of ten recitals in which he played from memory the complete organ works of J.S. Bach.
One of Dupré’s most popular works is this set of variations on an old French Christmas tune. Dupré somberly sets out the simple melody, then proceeds with ten brief variations. When Dupré’s Op 20 was published in 1923, it was titled ‘Variations sur un Noël’. Since then, however, it has been more often referred to as Variations sur un vieux Noël.
There is no doubt that these variations were written while Dupre was travelling across the USA in 1922 by train playing a recital series. I am indebted to Ashley Snavley’s research paper from which I quote:
“The following year, in the fall of 1922, Dupré returned to the United States to go on a transcontinental tour to play ninety-four concerts. In Dupré’s own words, he was “well received everywhere.” During this tour, he travelled by train from New York to Chicago to San Francisco and Los Angeles. He performed in Pasadena, Claremont, Tucson, Albuquerque, Colorado Springs, and Omaha – to name a few venues – before returning to the East Coast. During these long train rides, Dupré composed his Variations sur un Noël, which would become one of his most popular works.”
It has been suggested that he specifically wrote the variations for the opening of a new Skinner organ on this concert tour but I have not been able to find conclusive proof of this. What seems certain is that in a tour of 94 instruments he must have played on many by Skinner organs and so the particular flavour of these instruments will have been in his mind when composing the pieces. Do you perhaps have hard evidence that this set of Variations was indeed heard for the first time on a Skinner instrument? If so we would love to know where this particular fact is recorded.
About the Skinner Style Organ
To find out more about our Skinner style organ and view lots of images and the detailed Stop List of both this instrument and the original Skinner Organ in St Peter’s Church visit our Skinner Style Organ Installation showcase page.
If this instrument has inspired you to find out more about what we could design for you – we’d be delighted to work with you to craft an organ for your specific needs. Please do get in contact with us to discuss your requirements or if you’d simply like more information. We have brochures and other material that can be used to present to colleagues or a committee (if needed).
About Dr Joseph Nolan
Multiple award winning British-Australian organist Dr Joseph Nolan has been hailed by ABC Classic FM as ‘an extraordinary musician’ and BBC Radio 3 CD Review as a ‘virtuoso’
Joseph graduated with distinction from the Royal College of Music, London, undertaking postgraduate studies with the legendary Marie-Claire Alain in Paris for two years supported by scholarships from the Countess of Munster Trust and Hattori Foundation.
He then returned to London and was appointed to Her Majesty’s Chapels Royal, St James’s Palace where he performed many times at Buckingham Palace, including giving the opening concert of the refurbished Grand Ballroom organ.
Joseph Nolan’s recordings of the complete organ works of Charles Marie Widor on the most famous French organs for award winning label, Signum Records, have been awarded multiple Editor’s Choices and five star reviews in Limelight, Gramophone and BBC Music Magazine. Very notably, Gramophone named the final disc of the Widor/Nolan cycle as a Critics Choice of 2017.
He was made a Chevalier des Arts des Lettres by the French government in 2016 and an Honorary Fellow of the University of Western Australia in 2013. Appointed Master of Music at St George’s Cathedral, Perth in 2008, the Cathedral music programme has been described as ‘elite, faultless and world-class’ by the Australian and West Australian newspapers.
You can watch more videos with Dr Joseph Nolan here:
- Symphony for Organ No 5 (Widor)
- Regent Classic DVD – Joseph Nolan at Selby Abbey
- Behind the Scenes Selby Abbey DVD recording
- YouTube – Regent Classic at Selby Abbey
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