Organ Recital January 2018

Friday January 5th 2017 at 12.30 pm

Organ Recital by Graham Gribbin (Halifax Minster)


Choral no 3 in A minor (1890)
César FRANCK 1822 – 1890

Cantilène Pastorale op 15 no 3 (1861)
Alexandre GUILMANT 1837 – 1911

Allegretto risoluto (from the Plymouth Suite 1937)
Percy WHITLOCK 1903 – 46

Suite Gothique op 25 (1895)
Introduction-Choral Menuet Gothique Prière à Notre-Dame Toccata
Léon BOËLLMANN 1862 – 1897

Graham Gribbin is Organist of Halifax Minster, taking over two years ago from Chris Brown. His is the son of Father Bernard, of this parish.

His musical career began as a chorister at Bradford Cathedral, and he started organ lessons under the late Keith Rhodes. On leaving school Graham embarked on an apprenticeshipas a piano tuner at Barker’s in Leeds. He has now traded under the banner of GSG Pianos for 30 years. The business, based in Shelf, is now the foremost piano supplier in the North of England.

Graham’s first love is the organ, and traditional Anglican church music. He has served asorganist at St Michael’s Shelf, St Michaels Heaton, All Saints Elland and various other churches. The appointment as Sub-organist and subsequently Organist at Halifax Minster is a tribute to his musicianship. Graham is passionate about the Harrison & Harrison organ at Halifax, and works tirelessly to raise funds for its restoration. Working with Canon Hilary Barber, acting as Director of Music, Graham is taking the Minster choir to new heights.

Programme notes

César Franck was the ‘eminence grise’ of the 19th century Parisian organ school, though actually born in Liège. He was the organiste titulaire at Ste-Clothilde in Paris from 1857 till his death in 1890, but as a young man was better known as a virtuoso pianist. His major works for organ comprise just three sets of pieces; the six grand pieces of 1862, the three pieces of 1878 and the three large-scale Chorales, written and published in Franck’s last year. The Chorales are all very different in character, each with two main themes; the first here is full of urgency, and reminiscent of the Bach organ prelude in the same key; the 2nd idea is a gorgeous melody for a solo reed stop, in A major. Each work also has a motto theme in the style of a chorale. The main themes are developed, and rise to a fantastic peroration, incorporating the chorale.

Alexandre Guilmant succeeded Widor as the Professor of organ at the conservatoire in 1896, by which time he had been organist of La Trinité in Paris since 1871, and had founded the Schola Cantorum (a rival to the conservatoire!) in 1894. Much of his organ music was written much earlier than this, and the Cantilène Pastorale dates from 1861when he was organist (succeeding his father) of Saint-Joseph in Boulogne, where he was raised. This piece (as well as the famous March on a theme of Handel) belongs to the first book (there are 18 books in all) of Guilmant’s ‘Pièces dans différents Styles’ written over a period of over 30 years.

Percy Whitlock was a brilliant organist, first as assistant at Rochester Cathedral, where he had been a chorister, and later at St Stephen’s Bournemouth, which he left to become the Municipal Organist of Bournemouth, based at the Winter Gardens and its famous Compton organ. The Plymouth Suite was composed to commemorate the IAO conference in Plymouth in 1937, and each movement is dedicated to one of the organists attending. The first movement that we hear today is a lively, thoroughly salty piece, perhaps a portrait of the bustling sea-going town of Plymouth.

Léon Boëllmann was nephew and pupil of Eugène Gigout. Like Alain, Whitlock and Reubke, (not to mention Mozart and Schubert), he died at a sadly young age, leaving us with tantalising questions of ‘what might have been’. The Gothic Suite is certainly a tremendous achievement which has kept his name alive for well over 100 years, in spite of his death at the age of 35. It is not alone: there is a fine 2nd suite, and a set of 12 pieces which has been called a treasure trove of delights. Meanwhile, the famous C minor Toccata of the Gothic Suite is preceded by a grand Introduction in the style of a chorale, a rumbustious Minuet in C major, and the delightful (if sentimental) Prayer in Notre-Dame.

Thank you for supporting our First Friday recitals. You are invited to donate to the St Margaret’s Music Fund, which helps pay for music, robes, choral scholarships and an organ scholarship. It is of greater value to us if you can use a Gift Aid envelope. We would like to thank Graham Gribbin for coming to play for us, and hope he enjoys being here with us.

The next recital, on Friday February 2nd, will be music by J.S.Bach: the Pastorale, the Variations on Sei gegrüsset and the Passacaglia and fugue. On March 2nd I shall play music by Howells and Leighton, and the recital on April 6th is given by Caius Lee from Leeds Cathedral.